Miguel Cabrera's injury latest to test Tigers' mettle

DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera's removal from Monday's 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals represented only the latest in a litany of injury woes to besiege the Detroit Tigers of late.

But for all the fans who were either grimacing at the sight of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia replacing him at first base in the fifth inning or directing an exaggerated fist-shake at the baseball gods, there is at least some comfort in the initial, and rather innocuous, diagnosis -- a left biceps strain that leaves the 33-year-old day-to-day.

"I don't expect it to be anything long-term," manager Brad Ausmus said following the club's series-opening defeat.

In fact, Ausmus essentially scoffed at the notion that the club's All-Star slugger, who entered Monday's contest batting .311 and just one RBI shy of 1,000 in his Tigers tenure, could miss more than two or three days.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Miggy said he was fine tomorrow," Ausmus said.

That would be a massive relief for a team limping toward a critical juncture of the season, with the club jockeying for one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the American League and less than two months remaining on the schedule. Cabrera remains one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball and he is relied upon as an offensive catalyst for the Tigers. After batting .299 in the first three months of the season, Cabrera has gone on to hit .314 and .373 in the months of July and August (with corresponding OPS of .935 and 1.094), according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

His commanding presence in a usually loaded lineup has become even more critical considering the team's current injury landscape.

The club is already missing three key contributors in third baseman Nick Castellanos (hand), shortstop Jose Iglesias (hamstring) and Cameron Maybin (thumb), and only the latter seems close to returning. (Maybin will begin a hitting progression within a few days, according to Ausmus.)

While the team is smarting with several offensively skilled position players out, their pitching staff is hardly immune.

Both Jordan Zimmermann (neck) and Mike Pelfrey (back) are on the disabled list as well, with the former sidelined for the second time this season and the latter updating reporters prior to Monday's game that he won't be able to make a rehab start for another week to 10 days.

The team seems optimistic that the Cabrera strain, suffered on an awkward play at first base during the first inning, is minor. But the team offered a similar refrain during previous setbacks this season, only to learn that the situation was more dire than originally anticipated.

Whether or not Cabrera is in the lineup on Tuesday against the Royals, the Tigers' mettle will be tested. It already has been with an uncanny number of sprains and strains cropping up over the past few weeks.

"I've been through that firsthand, so it's pretty frustrating," said pitcher Daniel Norris, who allowed one earned run on six hits with four walks in 5⅓ innings pitched Monday night. "You know, with everybody [getting hurt] it feels like there's something. You never know what's going to happen each day. That's the thing though, you have to have resilience."

As it stands, the (63-55) Tigers are 2.5 games back from the second wild-card spot. No one else is going to bemoan their poor luck, so the Tigers will instead try to cultivate a "next man up" mentality in terms of filling the voids littered throughout the lineup.

"Starters, bullpen guys, guys coming off the bench, guys filling in, it's going to take everybody doing their job to make up the difference," said infielder Casey McGehee, who recorded his third multi-hit game while spelling Castellanos at third base.

Cabrera may be in the lineup on Tuesday. He may not. The Tigers are hobbled either way; that much is undeniable. But the team will soon see the lasting effects -- whether the plethora of injuries sends them spiraling down the standings, or whether they can ride out this rocky stretch.

"We're not going to bury our faces in our hands," Ausmus said. "We'll come back tomorrow."