DETROIT -- Al Alburquerque has been hesitant to talk about his pitching lately. He's been through too many stretches where he has felt like he has his command down, only to fall into a bout of struggles.
After two scoreless innings Saturday night, Alburquerque felt comfortable saying he feels better on the mound. More importantly, so did his manager.
"He's been better," Jim Leyland said Sunday morning. "He's still a little inconsistent on his slider, but he did one heckuva job last night and he is getting better."
The slider has been progressing after Alburquerque made an adjustment. He was throwing it harder for the last month or two, frequently hitting 90-91 mph on the radar gun, but with inconsistent location. He has taken a few miles per hour off of it, but gained some break on it.
The result has been a slider that's tougher to hit. He threw 15 of his 21 sliders for strikes Saturday, according to brooksbaseball.net, and induced five swings and misses.
Alburquerque also credits a better mindset on the mound.
"Throw your pitch. Make your pitch," he said Sunday. "Don't worry about nothing. Don't think too much."
Miggy out of lineup because of groin soreness
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera hadn't arrived at Comerica Park by the time Tigers manager Jim Leyland made out his lineup early Sunday morning. It didn't matter.
Hours after Cabrera left Saturday night's game in the 10th inning with recurring soreness in his groin, Leyland wasn't taking any chances. He rested Cabrera for Sunday's series finale against the White Sox and started Don Kelly at third base.
Cabrera said he felt better than he did Saturday, and Leyland was preparing to use him as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning if the Tigers rallied. They never got to that point in the 6-3 loss, so Cabrera ended up with a complete day off.
"He was much better today," Leyland said. "No activity today, that should help, but it's one of those things that you can play the game and be OK and then have to give a little extra or something and that bothers him. We've got to get some guys healthy."
Despite the limitations, Cabrera suggested he isn't far off. He estimated Sunday that he's at 80-90 percent strength.
"I feel better today," he said. "We'll see tomorrow."
Leyland doesn't know yet how he'll handle Cabrera this coming week, and it's not just the uncertainty of Cabrera's injury playing into it. The sooner the Tigers clinch, the sooner Leyland can think about giving Cabrera days off, but Leyland notes a risk to that.
"You're going to have four days off after the [regular] season, before the playoffs start," Leyland said. "And all of a sudden, if you rest him three or four days now, that's seven out of eight days you don't play your best hitter going into the playoffs, without seeing a pitcher. That's not good either.
"That's a Catch-22. Common sense tells you to let him rest, but if you rest him or three or four days and then you have four days off before you start, you're talking about him being rested for a week without seeing pitchers."
The decision might well come down to how much the Tigers medical staff believes Cabrera's injury will heal with days off. The report all summer has been that he cannot worsen it by playing, but the recurring occasions in which he has had to sit suggest it hasn't gotten appreciably better.
He's somewhat a victim of his own success in that regard.
"It's a Catch-22," Leyland repeated, "because you want him out there on base, but when he's out there four times, there's a chance he's going to get sore. He gets three hits and a walk or something, he's so good."
The Tigers have already said Cabrera's individual feats won't play into the decision. He entered Sunday batting .349 with a safe 22-point lead in the American League batting race over Mike Trout, who would need a 20-for-20 tear to get to .350.
Chris Davis' seven-homer lead in the AL standings looks to be too much for Cabrera to make up, considering he has one home run in September. The one close race he has among Triple Crown categories is in RBIs, where he leads Davis by two.
Iglesias not yet ready to run, field ground balls
DETROIT -- Jose Iglesias reported more movement in his bruised left hand Sunday. At this point, though, it's slow progress.
"My range of motion is limited," Iglesias said, "but each and every day it feels better."
He isn't close to taking ground balls yet. The next step for him, actually, will be simply running. He was not available to pinch-hit in Saturday night's comeback win, which is why Hernan Perez ran for Alex Avila as the potential game-winning tally in the ninth inning.
Iglesias' return is more a matter of when than if. With just under two weeks until the postseason, his readiness for the playoffs seems to be safe. The question now is how much playing time he can get at short to get his timing back before the regular season ends?
Rondon eyeing return to action Tuesday
DETROIT -- Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon let loose in a Sunday morning mound session from the bullpen at Comerica Park. How he feels coming out of that will probably determine whether he'll be available to pitch Tuesday at Target Field.
Rondon hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 2 against the Red Sox. He spent two weeks without throwing because of tenderness in his pitching elbow, then has spent the past week progressing to the point where he could throw off the mound. He threw all of his pitches Sunday morning.
"He threw good," manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland isn't talking about his potential postseason bullpen yet, and he bristles at questions that could be hinting toward that. Still, it would be difficult to see the Tigers putting Rondon in the bullpen for a playoff series without him getting back into a regular-season game.
Left-hander Phil Coke, out since the middle of the week with elbow inflammation, played catch Sunday after three days of rest and medication. The results on that were mixed.
"Coke threw hard, but the elbow was a little tight," Leyland said. "I don't know what that exactly means."
• Sunday's sellout crowd of 41,749 pushed the Tigers' season total to 3,083,397, marking the second-highest attendance in franchise history. The only higher total came in 2008, when the Tigers drew 3,202,645.
• The Tigers confirmed the signings of Blaine Hardy and Justin Miller to Minor League contracts, first reported by Baseball America.
Hardy enjoyed newfound success as a starter at Triple-A Toledo down the stretch this season, tossing a complete-game one-hitter in August. He went 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 14 appearances for the Mud Hens.
The 26-year-old Miller went 1-1 with a 7.67 ERA in the Rangers farm system before being released in August.