Detroit — Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter isn’t in the business of sugar-coating reality or giving false hope.
So when he’s asked if Miguel Cabrera will be ready to play baseball again in 2019, he isn’t giving guarantees.
“With any injury, there is always concern about the rehab process,” he said Wednesday. “There is no crystal ball, nothing to say he’s going to be all right because he followed these steps.”
The goal, he said, was to have Cabrera ready to go in spring training next year. Whether he comes back stronger or somewhat diminished physically, well, there is no crystal ball.
“Can (the injury) happen again?” Teter said. “You can’t say that. I don’t anticipate a deficiency. I don’t anticipate it being limiting for him right now. As the rehab progresses, that’s when you find these things out.”
Cabrera, who ruptured his left biceps tendon on a hard swing and miss Tuesday night, will have surgery Thursday. Dr. David Altchek will perform the surgery in New York City. How much damage Altcheck finds once he opens up Cabrera's arm also will play a role in the length and effectiveness of his recovery.
Cabrera plans to do his rehab work in the Detroit area.
“Basic rehab has a timeframe,” Teter said. “The first step is for him to get range of motion back. We think he’ll have that in about six weeks. Once he has full range of motion, now we start working on strength.
“With this particular injury, from everybody we’ve talked to and referenced, it looks like six months out he should be able to start baseball activity. You have general timelines you want to stick to, but you take the rehab and the injury as it comes and move forward with what the body gives you.”
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Teter cautioned that through the process, there will good days where it’ll seem like he’s ahead of schedule and there will be bad days when it’ll seem like he’s behind schedule. That he is 35, Teter said, is also a factor in the rehab process.
“It’s not like he’s a 45-year-old man who moved a box or dropped a couch,” he said. “But with him, with the way he swings and his muscle mass, you take age into consideration when you are doing any rehab. But the rehab remains the same.
“You are treating the muscle, whether he’s 21 of 45. You treat it the same way. You get the range of motion, you gain strength and progress back into baseball activity.”
This injury, a ruptured biceps tendon, is more frequently sustained by football players. It’s very rare in baseball. Dean Palmer, a former Tiger, is one example of a player who had the surgery and played eight successful seasons in the big leagues after it.
“As he’s going through the process in anticipation of being ready for next spring, we’re going to continue working on everything,” Teter said. “We’re going to work on his back, his hips, his ankle — you work everything. You rehab everything so you can come back as strong as you can.”
Teter said you often see pitchers throw harder after having Tommy John surgery, but it wasn’t the surgery that made that happen.
“They think it’s the surgery that makes guys faster when they come back,” he said. “But it’s the fact that they’ve refined their mechanics, they worked on shoulder strength, they worked on leg strength. And that’s the way it will be handled with Miguel.”
Teter was asked if the biceps spasm Cabrera suffered at the end of April was a factor in the tendon rupturing on Tuesday.
“It’s always a possibility, but (the spasm) was in a completely different place than where this injury is,” he said. “He’d taken numerous rounds of batting practice and played in games and done everything at full speed. So I wouldn’t say it was something that was lingering.”