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Royals-Tigers Preview

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DETROIT -- Injuries have forced Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus to use a makeshift lineup in recent weeks. Ausmus took solace that his franchise player's ailment turned out to be minor.

First baseman Miguel Cabrera did not play Tuesday after he left Monday's game against Kansas City with a left biceps strain. Cabrera could return as early as Wednesday in the series finale.

Cabrera initially injured his arm a few weeks earlier, and he aggravated it while reaching for an errant throw. Cabrera felt good enough to play on Tuesday but his boss nixed the idea.

"We're going to be a little cautious," Ausmus said. "We're going to need him the next month and a half. I'm certainly not concerned long-term about Miggy."

Following the Tigers' 6-1 loss to the Royals on Tuesday, Cabrera pronounced himself ready to play.

"I'm good. I always want to play," he said. "Sometimes, you've got to step back and get a day off and go tomorrow."

Cabrera has dealt with assorted injuries in recent seasons but missed just his second game this season. He's not putting up the monster numbers he had during his prime but he's not that far off. He ranks among the American League's Top 10 in batting average (.310), home runs (27) and RBIs (77).

With third baseman Nick Castellanos, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Cameron Maybin on the 15-day disabled list, the Tigers can't afford to lose Cabrera's bat in the heart of the lineup.

"If this was the last week of the season, I promise you Miggy would be playing and he'd want to be in there," Ausmus said. "He's proven that in the past."

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If starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey were not also on the DL, right-hander Anibal Sanchez (6-12) would probably be in the bullpen.

Sanchez lost his rotation spot due to ineffectiveness, then regained it when those injuries struck. He appeared to turn the corner with back-to-back quality starts earlier this month but got hammered in his last outing, allowing eight runs on eight hits in four innings to Texas.

Sanchez has a good track record against the Royals, going 6-4 with a 2.79 ERA. Among active starting pitchers with at least 10 starts against Kansas City, Sanchez has the third-lowest ERA.

The Tigers brought in some reinforcements on Tuesday, acquiring shortstop Erick Aybar from the Atlanta Braves and recalling outfielder Steven Moya from Triple-A Toledo. Aybar is expected to join the Tigers in time for Wednesday's game.

Sanchez's counterpart, right-hander Yordano Ventura, has enjoyed great success against the Tigers. He is 6-0 with a 3.18 ERA in nine career outings against Detroit, including two victories this season.

Ventura (8-9) has found a level of consistency in his last seven starts, never allowing more than three runs.

"He's staying within himself better," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "At times, he's got such good stuff, he tends to overthrow. When he overthrows, he loses location.

"When he stays within himself, his stuff is actually better. The velocity on his fastball is better. The action on his curveball and changeups are better. When he overthrows, he flies open and leaves everything flat, so he's been doing a really good job the last six weeks of trying to stay within himself and execute pitches."

Ventura earned a road victory at Minnesota on Friday and will try to win consecutive road starts for the first time this season. He has a 3.68 ERA in his last six road outings.

"It's experience more than anything else," Yost said. "You figure out that if you're going to get your head beat in doing it the other way, it's not fun. So you're going to have to make adjustments. He's working really hard on doing that."