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Cabrera rests sore knee, sits against Verlander

@beckjason
May 15, 2019

DETROIT -- Twenty-one months after Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander stopped being teammates, the two Tigers legends have yet to face each other in a game. Cabrera's sore right knee prevented their matchup Wednesday night. While Verlander faced the Tigers for the third time since being traded to the Astros

DETROIT -- Twenty-one months after Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander stopped being teammates, the two Tigers legends have yet to face each other in a game. Cabrera's sore right knee prevented their matchup Wednesday night.

While Verlander faced the Tigers for the third time since being traded to the Astros in August 2017, Cabrera was out of Detroit’s lineup. He left Tuesday’s 11-4 loss with soreness in his knee in what was characterized as a precautionary move.

“We’ll let him have a day here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to protect that guy. We’ve said that all along. I’m pretty sure he was champing at the bit to get a piece of Verlander, but sometimes that’s not always a good antidote for soreness.”

Still, there could be some lingering cause for concern to make sure it doesn’t worsen. Cabrera said Wednesday he has been dealing with knee soreness for much of the season, but he has played through it. He started each of Detroit’s first 40 games this season -- 18 at first base, 22 at designated hitter.

Cabrera said as far back as Spring Training that he worries more about his legs and his back than he does the surgically repaired left biceps that cost him most of last season -- including Verlander starts against the Tigers last July in Houston and last September at Comerica Park.

The Tigers have a quick turnaround from Wednesday night’s series finale against the Astros to Thursday afternoon’s series opener against the A’s, which could also play into Cabrera's day off.

The Tigers travel to Houston for a four-game series in late August. For now, the only at-bats Cabrera has had against Verlander are from their days as teammates, taking batting practice as part of Spring Training.

Could VerHagen return as a starter?

While the Tigers search for starting pitching help with their rotation depleted by injuries, one candidate is a pitcher they thought they might lose earlier this month. Drew VerHagen, designated for assignment a week and a half ago, has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Toledo with the understanding that he’ll work as a starter in the Mud Hens' rotation.

It’ll be VerHagen’s third try as a starter, having made four Major League starts in his six-year career -- most recently last season. While VerHagen likes starting, the Tigers have generally seen him as a better bullpen candidate. Given their depth issues between Detroit and Toledo, however, they need all the starters they can find.

“That’s our goal, to start him and let him find himself,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got to get [his pitch count] built up, obviously.”

VerHagen could have elected free agency instead of a return to the Mud Hens. The chance to start was conveyed to him and could have played a role in his acceptance.

“That’s what he would like to do,” Gardenhire said. “That’s what we need. And if he can find himself, that would be wonderful.”

Relief prospect promoted

Right-hander Bryan Garcia, the Tigers’ No. 20 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is being promoted from Class A Advanced Lakeland to Double-A Erie as the highly-valued reliever continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery last year.

Garcia, a former University of Miami closer selected by the Tigers in the sixth round of the 2016 Draft, was seemingly on the fast track before he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He returned earlier this month and made four appearances with the Flying Tigers, allowing two runs on three hits in four innings with two walks and six strikeouts.

Quick hits

• Shortstop Jordy Mercer, currently on the 10-day injured list with a right quad strain, worked out on the field at Comerica Park on Wednesday afternoon and could go on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo this weekend.

• The Tigers released catcher Cameron Rupp earlier this week. Rupp, acquired in Spring Training from the Giants to provide catching depth, batted .254 (18-for-71) with five doubles, a home run and six RBIs in 21 games for the Mud Hens. But with top catching prospect Jake Rogers promoted to Toledo and veteran Bobby Wilson reinstated from the injured list, Rupp was caught in a roster squeeze.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.