Posted on June 13, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera

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Any lingering hope the Detroit Tigers had of competing for a playoff spot this season may have just gone out the window. The Tigers have lost first baseman Miguel Cabrera for the rest of the season. Cabrera left Tuesday’s game against the Twins with what the team called a tendon strain of his left biceps. However, an MRI revealed a complete rupture of the muscle. The injury will require the 35-year old Cabrera to undergo season-ending surgery.

After swinging at a pitch in the third inning, Cabrera immediately dropped his bat, grabbed his arm, and started walking toward the dugout. Without much delay, Cabrera headed to the team’s clubhouse, as he knew immediately that something was wrong.

“At the end of that inning, I ran up to check on him in the clubhouse, and he said he felt a pop on that swing,” said Tigers outfielder Nick Castellanos. “I knew that wasn’t good, but we didn’t find out how bad it was until after the game.”

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Unfortunately for Cabrera, injuries have become par for the course over the last few years. He missed time early last season because of a groin strain, as well as a DL stint earlier this year because of a hamstring problem. In 2016, Cabrera avoided going to the DL but admitted to playing through several nagging injuries. Last September, Cabrera also came clean about playing most of the season with two herniated discs in his back that required offseason surgery.

Despite all of those issues, Cabrera was in the midst of an impressive season, at least considering his age and recent health issues. While he lacks the great power he once had, Cabrera was hitting .299 with an OPS of .843. He remains a feared hitter in the eyes of opposing pitchers and has remained in the no. 3 spot in Detroit’s lineup for much of the season.

Since they play in the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers have remained on the fringe of contention this year. Little was expected of them heading into the season. But the Tigers began Wednesday just 5.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, a gap they could potentially close with a little good fortune. However, the chances of that happening change dramatically with Cabrera no longer part of the equation.

“Definitely a big blow for our ballclub and for that young man trying to come back,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. “I feel terrible for him. He feels terrible. We’ve got to try to help him get through this thing. It’s a very sad day for our baseball team. He’s a special player and a special person to have around here. It’s a blow. I feel terrible.”

Gardenhire indicates that backup catcher John Hicks will get most of the playing time at first base with Cabrera out. Hicks has had a solid offensive season, hitting .285 with an OPS of .764. However, he’s obviously not in the same class of hitter as Cabrera.

“Everybody has to do their part to pick up the slack,” says Castellanos.

The Tigers also have to wonder how this injury will affect Cabrera’s long-term health. He’s 35, becoming injury plagued, and under contract through at least the 2023 season. He has vesting options for 2024 and 2025. More importantly, he’ll be making at least $30 million in each of those seasons. That’s a lot of money dedicated to an aging player who just experienced a serious injury. As it relates to both the team’s present and future, Cabrera’s injury is a dark cloud hanging over the Tigers.

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