"He had herniation in two disks. Treatment is to be determined," Ausmus said.
The course of treatment will determine whether he has any chance of playing again this week. Ausmus would not rule it out, saying Cabrera will travel with the team to Kansas City for their upcoming series against the Royals.
"I would imagine if he did [play], it would be in a DH role," Ausmus said.
Treatment could include injections, but Ausmus -- who suffered from similar back problems during the latter years of his career -- indicated surgery is unlikely.
Cabrera was originally expected to have an MRI exam on his back once he returned home to Miami at season's end. His recurring lower back tightness -- the latest incident forcing him out of Saturday's game -- moved up the timetable.
Cabrera has wanted to play out the season if he's at all able, even as he struggles through September. His .249 average and .728 OPS are both career lows, while his 16 home runs would mark his lowest total since his rookie season in 2003.
Asked if Cabrera would benefit from playing less at first base, Ausmus said, "Not only do I think it would benefit him, I think that's probably going to happen. But that's not my call."
Likewise, Ausmus said Cabrera has indicated he plans to alter his offseason workout routine to help his back, focusing on core exercises.
"There are exercises specifically designed to work the muscles along the vertebrae that help stabilize the vertebrae so that they don't put as much pressure on the disks," Ausmus said.
In other Tigers injury news:
• Third baseman Jeimer Candelario, his right knee swollen from a collision with the dugout railing Saturday night, was held out of Sunday's lineup. Ausmus said he'd be shocked if Candelario wasn't back for Tuesday's series opener at Kansas City.
• Outfielder Tyler Collins is dealing with an intercostal muscle issue and is day to day.
• Reliever Jeff Ferrell, who was struck by a line drive on Monday against Oakland, threw on Friday and Saturday but remains in concussion protocol. He'll travel with the team on the road, and will pitch again if he's cleared.