DETROIT -- If it were up to Carlos Guillen, he'd be the Tigers' starting second baseman next season.

Sure, he'd like to return to the lineup before this year is over. But with the deep bone bruise in his left knee taking longer than expected to heal, it seems more and more unlikely by the day that he will be healthy enough to return with only 3 1/2 weeks left in the season.

"I'd like to, but I don't make that decision," Guillen said when asked if he wanted to play second base next season. "I was feeling pretty good out there."

If Guillen's season is over, he'll finish with a .273 average, six home runs and 34 RBIs in 68 games played, which would be his lowest games-played total in any season since 1999. The announcement of his season being finished could come as early as Thursday, when he'll travel to New York to meet with Dr. Russell Warren, who first examined his knee after the Yankees' Brett Gardner slid into it nearly three weeks ago.

"I'll work in the same way and prepare myself the same for every year," Guillen said of his offseason preparations if his season is over. "I got hurt in the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. Things happen. There's nothing you can do about it. It doesn't matter how you prepare yourself before the season. Things happen during the game."

Guillen isn't apprehensive to play at second base again. In fact, he'd prefer the constant motion that comes with playing in the infield, opposed to the stop-and-go motions that accompany playing in the outfield.

Nonetheless, injuries happen in baseball -- and Guillen knows it better than most.

"Maybe you get hit by a pitch and you don't play for two months," he said. "I'm not afraid [to play second base]. I've been through this before. What are you gonna do?"

Cabrera hopes to return on Thursday

DETROIT -- Tigers slugger and AL MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera said he hopes to get back into the starting lineup for Thursday afternoon's series finale against the White Sox. But if he does, he wants to make sure he's helping the team by doing it.

If he's still favoring his ailing left shoulder to the point where he alters his swing, he probably isn't going to go.

He should have a pretty good idea how it's going to go by the way he feels taking swings on Thursday morning.

"I'm going to make sure tomorrow I'm 100 percent [ready] to play," Cabrera said. "I hope to take batting practice and swing fully."

Cabrera left Tuesday's game after six innings with a recurrence of bicep tendinitis in his shoulder. He said he felt the pain in his last at-bat, when he fouled off a fastball and grounded out on the next pitch.

It was not the swing he wants to have.

"Right now, I don't feel the swing," Cabrera said. "When I swing and I get extension, it hurts. When I swing the other way, it doesn't feel right."

With Cabrera not available and Johnny Damon getting a routine day off for rest, the Tigers' lineup featured four rookies in the first five spots in the order and five rookies overall. Brennan Boesch took Cabrera's place in the cleanup spot, with Casper Wells batting behind him.

Weinhardt slides through 'bizarre' outing

DETROIT -- Rookie reliever Robbie Weinhardt summed up his outing on Tuesday with one word -- bizarre.

Weinhardt's go-to pitch is the sinker, but on Tuesday, he said he couldn't throw it for a strike even if he wanted to. Instead, his slider was much more effective, despite usually being a pitch he can't completely rely on.

Weinhardt said his slider was the best it's been all season. Tigers manager Jim Leyland noticed, too. The skipper said he's been impressed with the improvement in Weinhardt's slider since his second callup of the season on Sept. 1.

"My slider's just been coming back," Weinhardt said. "I had a different grip for a slider that I was trying to work with. I was down in Toledo and I threw that a little bit. I don't know if that helped my arm angle with the pitch that I used to throw because I'm back to the old grip. I've worked in the bullpen, and the last couple outings it's been really good."

Weinhardt isn't too concerned about his sinker returning to form. Leyland said he won't use the 24-year-old for the rest of the White Sox series, giving him ample time to tweak his mechanics with his front side, which led to his lack of command.

If the mix-up of pitches wasn't strange enough, Weinhardt was charged with two errors on the same play in the eighth inning. He bobbled a dribbler back to the mound and botched the throw to first. Then Weinhardt beaned Manny Ramirez, who was the very next batter after his rare double-error play.

But the bottom line was the result. He lasted two innings, matching his second-longest outing in 21 big league appearances, and didn't allow a run with three strikeouts, which tied a season high.

"Yesterday was just a really bizarre outing," Weinhardt said. "But in the end, it ended up being all right."

Tigers evaluating Avila while Laird sits

DETROIT -- Gerald Laird's ailing back has given Alex Avila a good long stretch of games behind the plate in September. It also has given the Tigers a good long look at him.

"We're also trying to see how Alex can handle catching every day," manager Jim Leyland said on Wednesday.

Handling a left-handed pitcher at the plate is part of it. Wednesday's matchup with White Sox southpaw John Danks marked Avila's ninth start in Detroit's last 11 games. He was a late-game substitute in the other two.

Laird was hoping to return to action on Wednesday night, but he couldn't swing without restriction. At this point, he remains day-to-day. He'll get his share of starts once he's back, but it's also clear that these final few weeks will be the Tigers' chance to evaluate what they have in Avila for next year.

It will likely play a good part in their offseason decisions. With Laird a free agent, the Tigers have to decide whether they see Avila as a regular catcher in 2011 or somebody who fits in a platoon. What they see will likely determine who they look to acquire this offseason -- either on the free-agent or trade markets.

Avila entered Wednesday in an 0-for-8 slump, but broke out of it with a two-run double. Leyland said before the game that he can see Avila as a .270 hitter in the future with some RBI production.

"I think he's doing pretty good," Leyland said. "I think he's getting a better rapport with the pitchers. I think the pitchers are getting more confidence in him. I've been watching that closely without making a point of it. I think he's doing OK. I think he's throwing pretty good. He's still got a ways to go.

"I think he's a little too passive at the plate, but I think he's going to be a real good hitter. I think he's going to be a very good hitting catcher in the Major Leagues. It's taking a little time, but he hasn't played very much. And I think he's going to be good."

Kelly's versatility keeps paying dividends

DETROIT -- Don Kelly came to Spring Training with more gloves than he could count. So far, he has used four of them.

With Miguel Cabrera out of the lineup Wednesday, Kelly made his fifth start of the season at first base. It became the fourth different position where he has made at least five starts. He has 17 starts in left field, 12 starts at third base and nine starts in center field.

Kelly joins Ryan Raburn for that feat; Raburn has started at least five times at all three outfield positions this year, plus 15 starts at second base.

In so doing, Kelly has put all his different gloves to work. He has an outfield glove, one for third base, one for first base and one for the middle infield.

Worth noting

Justin Verlander's win on Tuesday pushed his season total to 15 for the fourth time in his first five Major League seasons. The only other active Major League pitcher to have done that is Atlanta's Tim Hudson, who rattled off four in a row for Oakland after going 11-2 as a rookie in 1999. ... With outfield prospect Ryan Strieby needing at least more rest and possibly more surgery on his ailing wrist, the Tigers will send outfielder Andy Dirks to the Arizona Fall League in his place. The 23-year-old Dirks batted .296 with 15 home runs, 63 RBIs and 22 stolen bases between Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie. ... Leyland said the Tigers will skip Armando Galarraga in the next turn through the rotation. Detroit has two scheduled off-days next week, and Galarraga has worked through soreness in his elbow.