DETROIT -- Following a dramatic, eighth-inning comeback fueled by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run homer, the Detroit Tigers savored a 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday. By all means, they can and should relish that win, at least for the night, because tomorrow brings the possibility of bad news.
The Tigers are awaiting word on the injury to center fielder Cameron Maybin, who will undergo an MRI on his left thumb on Tuesday. He exited Monday's game after appearing to catch the thumb under the knee of White Sox second baseman Tyler Saladino on a stolen base attempt in the fifth inning.
Maybin was already playing hurt. He was activated off the disabled list from a Grade Two left thumb sprain on Aug. 21, even though his thumb still hurt every day. When he got up from the slide to second, grimacing in pain and favoring his left hand, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and manager Brad Ausmus did not hesitate to remove him from the game.
Exactly how long he will be out is not yet known. The Tigers are working under the assumption that Monday's injury is a "contusion" but will adjust accordingly after the MRI.
"We'll wait for the diagnosis," Ausmus said. "We'll hope for the best and prepare for the worst."
What is clear is how heavily Maybin's absence will be felt if he misses significant time. Even at less than 100 percent, as he has been recently, Maybin is a dynamic, energetic presence in the Tigers' lineup. It is hard to underscore just how important a catalyst he has been to this offense.
That said, the team's record with and without him in the lineup is a pretty good indication of his value. The Tigers entered Monday 43-26 with Maybin and 26-35 when he is not playing. He entered Monday's game batting .328 with 36 RBIs and 14 stolen basis.
"The guy's hitting .330. It means a lot, especially in the front of the lineup or the back of the lineup," Saltalamacchia said. "The guy gets on bases, he makes things happen on the bases. He's played a great center field, so he brings a lot of energy. That's what you look for."
Already, Maybin has spent two stints on the disabled list this season. He began the year on the DL with a left wrist fracture, then took an additional trip earlier this month because of the thumb injury. Teammates were aware of the daily pain he was gritting through in an effort to help the club during a critical stretch of games against divisional opponents. That made it especially hard to see him appear to reaggravate the injury on Monday.
"The first one hurts. Any injury physically hurts. The second one in the same spot is always more painful," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who batted in the two-hole for the first time this season Monday, with Maybin moved to the leadoff position. "Hopefully, there's not more damage, and hopefully, we can get him back in the lineup soon. The sooner, the better. He's important to our team, to the middle of the diamond and to getting things going on this team."
Considering where the Tigers stand -- trailing the division-leading Cleveland Indians by 4½ games and sitting one game back of the second wild card -- they need a player of Maybin's caliber. A significant injury to the team's resident spark plug could prove devastating.
His teammates will have to hope the results of his MRI reveal something minor. If not, it could be a difficult loss for the Tigers to overcome. They are already without a crucial position player in Nick Castellanos (hand) and two starting pitchers, Jordan Zimmermann (neck) and Mike Pelfrey (back).
"We're a band of brothers here. We try to pick each other up. Cam's been through a lot, and ... you hate to see a guy get hurt," Saltalamacchia said. "Hopefully it's something that can heal up pretty quickly and be able to get back out there.