Instead, manager AJ Hinch gave the 38-year-old an extra day of rest. Cabrera has now missed two games in a row since exiting Tuesday’s contest with right calf tightness. He is scheduled to return Friday.
“Miggy’s down today, even though he really wants to play,” Hinch said Thursday. “He’s going to come out and do a full day’s work. I made the decision yesterday that he wasn’t going to play, regardless of how he felt today.”
The Astros — possessing the second-best record in baseball and riding a 10-game winning streak — are in town for a four-game series at Comerica Park. When the Tigers swept the Astros, from April 12-14 in Houston, Cabrera was on the injured list because of a left biceps strain.
He will finally get his chance to play the team Hinch managed from 2015-19 on Friday, when the Astros send left-hander Framber Valdez to the mound. In five starts, Valdez has a 1.67 ERA, nine walks and 29 strikeouts over 32⅓ innings.
Hinch didn’t rule out Cabrera pinch-hitting Thursday, though.
“It’s important for us to have him back in the lineup tomorrow against Framber Valdez, when I go with a heavy right-handed hitting lineup,” Hinch said. “It was a conservative approach. He can come out and do the day-to-day, maybe get a big pinch-hit.”
Cabrera entered Thursday with a .222 batting average, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 16 walks and 56 strikeouts in 54 games this season. He is hitting .299 over 17 games in June, along with a .338 on-base percentage.
Baddoo gets rewarded
Cabrera’s absence, in part, shuffled several other positions Thursday.
Outfielder Robbie Grossman, who returned from flu-like symptoms, moved down to the third spot in the batting order as the Tigers need somebody to stabilize the middle of the order. It marked Grossman’s third time this season outside of the leadoff spot. (He hit sixth for two of his 70 games.)
Looking past Cabrera’s situation, Hinch couldn’t refrain from putting Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo at the top of the lineup against Astros right-handed starter Luis Garcia. The 22-year-old rookie hits well against righties — with a .304 batting average and 20 walks in 146 plate appearances — and has proven he can handle a greater role.
Since May 11, Baddoo is hitting .351 with a .484 on-base percentage, 20 walks and 19 strikeouts in 30 games. His plate discipline has improved, especially against offspeed and breaking pitches.
MORE ABOUT BADDOO: Why Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo ‘could be here to stay for a long time’
As a result, Hinch trusts Baddoo in the leadoff spot.
“He understands pitch recognition is at the forefront of his success,” Hinch said. “If he goes up there in swing mode or trying to do damage before he has pitch recognition, we’ve seen him take a step backward. That is the youthful development at the big-league level, but he has supreme confidence against pitchers. He’s taking close pitches. He’s not afraid to hit the ball the other way. He hasn’t got caught up in the rollercoaster ride with power. He’s made up for that with being very aggressive on the bases.
“He’s just starting to scratch the surface of how dynamic he could be. Mentally, I think he’s starting to understand what it takes to be successful here, which might be different than anything he’s experienced before.”
Another reason for the lineup adjustment is Grossman’s recent production.
The 31-year-old veteran is 1-for-20 (.050) with zero walks and six strikeouts in his past four games. In the 14 games before his mini-slump, Grossman had a .268 batting average, three home runs, nine RBIs, seven walks and 19 strikeouts.
Grossman sat out Wednesday’s series finale with the St. Louis Cardinals to recover from an illness, unrelated to COVID-19.
“He feels a ton better,” Hinch said. “I think mentally and physically, it was good for him both ways to sit out a game. He got to watch a game, he got to watch a win. He got back on his feet, and he doesn’t feel under the weather nearly as much.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.