Cabrera, who is on the 10-day disabled list with hamstring injury, was asked about recent setbacks in his recovery. The two-time MVP was eligible to return from the DL on Monday but has experienced soreness in his back and hips.
"I went through that last year, so I don't want to do the same thing," Cabrera told reporters Tuesday, according to mlive.com. "Nobody appreciates you when you play hurt, so I'm going to take my time and play when I'm good. I played hurt a lot of years here in Detroit. They don't appreciate that."
Cabrera, 35, was plagued by back injuries throughout last season, when he batted a career-low .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs -- also a career low -- in 130 games.
"When you are doing bad, they crush you. They crush you," he said. "They say you're bad, you should go home, you don't deserve anything, you're old. I say, 'OK, I'm done playing hurt.' Now I take my time."
Cabrera is in the third year of an eight-year, $248 million contract that is guaranteed through his age-40 season. The 11-time All-Star first baseman was off to a good start this season, batting .323 with three homers and 21 RBIs in his first 26 games.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said there is no timetable for Cabrera's return but that the team hopes the former Triple Crown winner can resume on-field baseball activities this week.