As Cabrera tossed his bat and took his base in the ninth inning of a tie game with the Royals Sunday night at Comerica Park, however, Ausmus took his shot and sent Rajai Davis in.
As Hernan Perez stood at the plate an inning later with the bases loaded and nobody out, batting in Cabrera's spot with the tying and winning runs in scoring position, Cabrera was badly missed. The double play the Royals turned in his spot from a Perez ground ball to third demonstrated it.
That doesn't make it a move Ausmus regrets.
"You don't want to remove your best hitter from the lineup," Ausmus said after the 2-1 loss, "but it's the bottom of the ninth. Raj is a significantly faster runner than Miggy, so you hope you can win it right there with Raj. It didn't work out this time, but to me it's a move you have to make at that point in the game."
The speedy Davis had been warming his legs up in the Tigers dugout since well before the game resumed from its one-hour, 43-minute rain delay, so Ausmus seemingly had the move in mind. Davis took first base with a perfect 6-for-6 record stealing bases against the Royals and catcher Salvador Perez since joining the Tigers last year. Perez hasn't thrown out Davis since July 3, 2012.
Davis had the green light, but didn't go on either of the first two pitches from Jason Frasor before Martinez singled through the left side against the infield shift. Once Davis got to second base, he got the stop sign.
"Once he was at second with Victor at first, it becomes a little more difficult to steal," Ausmus said. "First of all, it's a little more difficult to steal third. But secondly, if he gets caught and Victor goes as well, now you end up with Victor on second, who probably can't score on a single. I just felt like Raj could score on a single, he's in scoring position, so at that point I held him up, hoping for a single."
He didn't get it. Frasor retired Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez on popouts. Davis did get to third when Nick Castellanos drew a two-out walk, but Frasor retired James McCann to send the game into extra innings.
Perez took over at first base batting in Cabrera's spot, which was due up fourth in the 10th inning. Andrew Romine's single and back-to-back walks from Greg Holland to Anthony Gose and Ian Kinsler made it a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity.
Perez's ground ball provided enough time to not only get the force out on the speedy Romine at the plate, but retire Perez at first base as well. Martinez's walk loaded the bases again, but Holland regrouped to strike out Cespedes and end the game.