ST. PETERSBURG -- For the first time in fan balloting, the Tigers had a first baseman voted to start in the All-Star Game. The coming days will tell whether they will have their second All-Star starting pitcher in seven years.
There were neither surprising first-timers nor shocking snubs for Detroit when the American League All-Star roster was announced Sunday afternoon. The star Tigers are the Tigers' All-Stars.
Prince Fielder, the reigning All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, took his credentials to the American League and won the starting nod at first base. Miguel Cabrera earned his third-straight selection, this time at third base, while Justin Verlander earned his fourth-straight selection, and fifth overall.
American League roster
|C||Mike Napoli, TEX|
|1B||Prince Fielder, DET|
|2B||Robinson Cano, NYY|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, TEX|
|SS||Derek Jeter, NYY|
|OF||Josh Hamilton, TEX|
|OF||Curtis Granderson, NYY|
|OF||Jose Bautista, TOR|
|DH||David Ortiz, BOS|
|RHP||Ryan Cook, OAK|
|LHP||Matt Harrison, TEX|
|RHP||Felix Hernandez, SEA|
|RHP||Jim Johnson, BAL|
|RHP||Joe Nathan, TEX|
|RHP||Chris Perez, CLE|
|LHP||David Price, TB|
|RHP||Fernando Rodney, TB|
|LHP||CC Sabathia, NYY|
|LHP||Chris Sale, CWS|
|RHP||Justin Verlander, DET|
|RHP||Jered Weaver, LAA|
|LHP||C.J. Wilson, LAA|
|C||Joe Mauer, MIN|
|C||Matt Wieters, BAL|
|SS||Elvis Andrus, TEX|
|SS||Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE|
|3B||Miguel Cabrera, DET|
|2B||Ian Kinsler, TEX|
|1B||Paul Konerko, CWS|
|OF||Adam Jones, BAL|
|OF||Mike Trout, LAA|
|OF||Mark Trumbo, LAA|
|DH||Billy Butler, KC|
|DH||Adam Dunn, CWS|
None of them were a particular surprise.
"I think Miguel and Prince you can almost write in every year unless it's a freak thing," Verlander said.
None of them, however, are taking it as just another trip.
"No, it's always different, because I always go into a different situation," said Cabrera. Right now, I come in at third base -- different situation. It's always different to me, always a challenge. I wish I was starting, but I can't control that, but I'm happy, happy to be around some the best players in the league."
Fielder becomes the sixth Tiger to start at first base, a group that includes his father, Cecil, in 1991 coming off of his 51-homer season the year earlier. Cabrera started for the American League at first base two years ago, though he was selected by players and coaches as a reserve and replaced an injured Justin Morneau for the starting job.
Prince Fielder's All-Star selection this year, his fourth, comes amidst an AL-debut season in which he has earned much more respect as a pure hitter than a slugger. While Fielder's 12 home runs entering Sunday ranked him 25th among AL hitters, his .294 batting average put him in the top 20. He has spent much of the season hitting better than .300.
He had a crowded field of AL first basemen, and a new league watching him. However, he brought a pretty large national appeal with him.
"It's cool," Fielder said of the vote. "It means a lot. I guess it means I'm nice to the fans."
Fielder already has a couple of All-Star starting assignments on his ledger from the National League, where he became a star with the Milwaukee Brewers. His three-run homer in last year's Midsummer Classic earned him MVP honors.
Cabrera was a reserve first baseman in that game, having lost out to Adrian Gonzalez in fan balloting for starting honors. When Fielder signed with Detroit in January and Cabrera moved from first to third, he seemingly had a better chance to crack the starting lineup, after falling short so often among a crowded group of AL first basemen.
A massive voting effort from the AL champion Rangers kept Cabrera chasing Adrian Beltre in balloting at third, falling about 417,000 votes short despite garnering just under 4.2 million votes. Once again, Cabrera's peers put him on the roster for his seventh All-Star selection, and his third as a Tiger. Cabrera actually received more votes in player balloting (508) than did Beltre (398).
"It means a lot," Cabrera said. "I think that's something [where] they give you a lot of respect. The players, they want you over there, because right now we look forward to home-field advantage if we get to the World Series. I think that's something we want to win, and they want to put the best team on the field."
Cabrera entered Sunday batting .315 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs, numbers that put him at the forefront of AL third basemen. Beltre's standing among the best two-way players in the league likely didn't hurt his chances.
The same player nod went for Verlander, whose follow-up campaign to his AL MVP and Cy Young Award honors from last year have reinforced his standing among the nastiest pitchers in baseball, if not at the top. He entered Sunday leading the AL in strikeouts and was fourth in ERA, while posting an 8-5 record. His 123 2/3 innings lead all Major League pitchers.
Verlander led all AL pitchers in player balloting with 258 votes, 16 more than White Sox left-hander Chris Sale.
"It's always unique and a great experience," Verlander said. "I find that it's a bit different when you have the opportunity to pitch. I've gone twice and had no chance to throw."
Verlander is a strong candidate to start for the American League in the Midsummer Classic. He'll make his final start before the All-Star break on Wednesday, giving him five days of rest before the game. He won't make his first start out of the break until the following Sunday.
Asked whether he had any idea on a starting assignment, Verlander shook his head.
"No clue," he said. "But I can't wait. I can't wait to see if I get booed or cheered. It's in Kansas City, but it's AL, so they should be cheering for us. But it's a division rival."
The Tigers didn't have a slew of strong candidates beyond that trio, but center fielder Austin Jackson and setup man Joaquin Benoit arguably ranked among All-Star snubs. Jackson entered Sunday batting .326 with a .408 on-base percentage and .945 OPS, ranking him among the best leadoff hitters in baseball so far this year. However, he was part of a crowded field of candidates in the outfield, where teams with one All-Star tend to get a representative.
"I'm pretty disappointed that Austin and Joaquin don't have the opportunity to go," Verlander said. "I think they're both deserving, and it would be a great experience. It just kind of stinks, really. They got the short end of it. Some guys having some great years, some big names having some good years."
Jackson was diplomatic. He said he wasn't sweating out the announcement Sunday afternoon, because he figured he wasn't getting in.
"That's not going to define my year by not making it," he said. "You can't control those type of things."
Benoit didn't sound particularly shocked, either. Setup relievers, he pointed out, are always at a disadvantage.
"I don't think about it," he said. "It's always a long shot for setup guys, and even for some closers. It depends on how good their starters are."
The Home Run Derby can be seen on MLB.com and ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on July 9.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.