Cabrera, Martinez could return as soon as Sunday
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez could be a few trips around the bases away from returning to the Tigers lineup as soon as Sunday.
Depending on how the two injured sluggers run the bases in drills, manager Brad Ausmus said they could get into a game Sunday, either one of the Tigers’ split-squad contests or in a minor-league game across the street at Tigertown.
Ausmus called it “an outside shot,” but acknowledged the possibility.
“We want to get them at-bats, but the final hurdle in terms of getting them into a game on the Major League side would be running the bases,” Ausmus said Saturday morning. “Once they can run the bases and we’re confident that they’re comfortable running the bases, that the re-injury risk is a minimum, then I think that’s the point where we can put them into a game.”
If they can do so Sunday, the schedule works in their favor. Sunday marks the Tigers’ final split-squad set of the spring, allowing the team to start both of them at designated hitter. The Tigers host the Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium, but also travel to face the Braves at Disney World, close to Martinez’s Orlando home.
If the Tigers aren’t all that comfortable having Cabrera and Martinez run bases, the minor-league games present a viable alternative.
“If you do it on the minor-league side, you can put them into a game and they don’t have to run the bases,” Ausmus said. “They can just hit and the team takes the out. They can get some repetition of seeing pitches and swinging the bat without having to run.”
The Tigers can also tweak the lineup in a minor-league game to have them bat every inning if they want. While the Tigers are off on Monday, they have intersquad games scheduled on the minor-league side.
Cabrera and Martinez have spent camp rehabbing from offseason surgeries with hopes of being ready on or around for Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot. He was cleared for baseball activity around the start of camp.
Martinez had the more recent surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee, suffered while playing catch at the end of January. His surgery, however, had a shorter timetable for recovery.
A return on Sunday would give Cabrera and/or Martinez close to two weeks of at-bats to get ready for regular-season pitching. It would be fewer at-bats than they’re used to in a typical camp, but should be enough to get their timing down at the plate as long as they feel healthy.