DETROIT -- If there's one thing Tigers manager Jim Leyland has never questioned this season it's his team's effort. He acknowledges the club might not be living up to fans' expectations, but this team, he insists, wants to win equally as bad as the fans.
"I can sit here today and honestly tell you ... there was only one game this year that I was disappointed in our approach," Leyland said prior to Friday night's game against the White Sox. "We got beat and that's the only game all year I thought we were blah. It wasn't that we dogged it, but we were just blah. But that's not an issue here."
Leyland didn't share what game that was, but it was the only one he could remember in the previous 130 that he had been upset about. And still, it wasn't with the team's effort, just mood.
In most cases, the players' efforts on a second-place team just three games back in the division wouldn't even be questioned. But being swept heading into a crucial series against the division-leading White Sox certainly magnified the situation.
And scoring one run in the final 18 innings against the team with the fifth-worst ERA (4.26) in the American League made it eye-popping. So much so that Leyland was asked if the team lacked a spark, which made him quickly disagree.
"Miguel [Cabrera] and Prince [Fielder] can't drive in a run every at-bat or hit a home run every at-bat. Justin [Verlander] can't strike somebody out every [at-bat]. It doesn't work like that," Leyland said. "That's baseball. It's OK to be disappointed, but I disagree with the spark thing.
"You look sluggish and boring when you don't score runs. Whenever you don't score runs and aren't running around the bases, you just don't look very good. That's the way it is because people want to come and see you score runs, and when you don't score runs, they're bored so you look blah. That's just the way it goes. ... Spark is probably not the right word."
Alburquerque to join bullpen on Sunday
DETROIT -- A year after Al Alburquerque stepped up as the big-strikeout specialist in the Tigers bullpen, he's about to get another shot. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed to reporters Friday that the slider-flinging right-hander will be among the club's September callups this weekend.
Alburquerque was the only September callup the Tigers announced Friday, not counting Avisail Garcia, who was called up Friday. The rest of the callups will be announced Saturday.
Alburquerque won't join the big club until Sunday, because Detroit optioned him last week. Even when rosters expand, players optioned must wait 10 days before they can be recalled unless they're replacing somebody placed on the disabled list.
Once he arrives, Alburqueurque is expected to play a big role.
"It's like making a big trade acquisition, to me," Dombrowski said.
Alburquerque spent the better part of four weeks at Triple-A Toledo working back into game shape, his final step after undergoing elbow surgery last December. He allowed two runs on nine hits over 10 2/3 innings at Toledo, walking four and striking out 18. Fifteen of those strikeouts came over his last six outings, covering 7 2/3 innings.
"His slider's just gotten more snap as we've gone along," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "Each day, he's gotten better and better command."
Alburquerque struck out the side against Indianapolis on Wednesday, his second outing in as many nights and the final test to make sure his arm was ready. Once his arm felt fine Thursday, he was ready.
"Right now, I feel strong," Alburquerque said after that outing. "Sometimes I feel sore, but I know I can throw in the game. I feel strong. I feel happy for everything I have right now.
Cabrera not 100 percent, but 'playable'
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera is visibly in pain each time he's on the field or in the batter's box. He's hurting running the bases, he's certainly hurting playing third base, and when asked if he was hurting after Friday night's game just standing talking to the media, he looked at the ground and smiled.
"I don't want to say too much about it, but it's [bad]," Cabrera said after the Tigers' 7-4 win over the White Sox. "No, not terrible. It's not feeling good or nothing. I'm not feeling the way I want to feel right now, but I want to be out there playing."
And the Tigers need him, especially to continue making up ground on the White Sox, who lead the American League Central by two games.
Cabrera went 3-for-4, hit a two-run home run to begin the scoring off Jake Peavy in the first inning and scored another run as the club broke the contest open in the seventh. He did it, basically, on one leg.
"Man, that just shows you what type of hitter that guy is," center fielder Austin Jackson said. "Have a little thing bothering him and he's still going out there and putting swings on balls and still getting hits."
For Jackson, even out in center field, he can tell the right ankle is nagging Cabrera.
"You can tell he's not as agile as he was earlier on," Jackson said. "At the same time, I'm thinking he's doing the things necessary so he can get out there and play with it."
Still, Cabrera is taking some heat for not sprinting out a game-ending, 4-6-3 double play that led to the Tigers being swept in Kansas City. Cabrera appeared to slow up on the play. Had he been going full speed, he likely would've been safe with Prince Fielder up next, down by one with a man on third.
Before manager Jim Leyland defended his player -- he said Cabrera gives "a great effort every single day, every day for however many years he's been there," -- he explained what he saw on the last at-bat against the Royals.
"Exactly what happened was, that ball that he hit was real close to the bag," Leyland said. "It was, for sure, probably a routine [play], because there were guys on first and second. That was his first reaction when it was hit. The foot's hurting, then he realized what was going on and he tried to get after it.
"He wasn't dogging it, contrary to what people want to make of it. I think it was so close to the bag, it looked like a simple boom-boom [play]."
Cabrera is the reigning American League batting champion and he is a favorite in the AL Most Valuable Player race this season with Angels outfielder Mike Trout. He is batting .329 with 33 home runs, 109 RBIs and 86 runs scored. And what he's done the past couple of weeks, he's done hurt.
However, the 29-year-old understands the criticism.
"People are always going to say negative things. They say you got to run hard to first, but that's the price you got to take," he said. "That's the price you got to take when you play hurt. What are you going to do, you know? Can't do nothing. Just take the hate last night."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.