Scott Kazmir will face one of his toughest tests yet on Wednesday in his remarkable return to prominence, as he'll face two-time reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers.
Kazmir faced the Tigers twice in 2013 as a member of the AL Central rival Indians, when he made his comeback after virtually two years out of the majors. He lost both of those games against Detroit, surrendering six runs in 10 2/3 total innings.
This time around, Kazmir will take on a Tigers squad that's tops in the AL in batting average (.275). While the southpaw is well aware of Cabrera, he also knows the Tigers' lineup runs much deeper than just the two-time AL MVP.
"It's not just [Cabrera]," Kazmir said. "It's not like you can just take a deep breath every time you face him and you're good after that. But, you know, it's just something where you kind of really make sure there's no one on base when the heart of the order comes up, and I think you'll be alright."
Kazmir boasts a 2.56 ERA, good for sixth in the AL. Last Friday against Toronto, he allowed three runs over seven innings, good for Kazmir's seventh quality start in 10 appearances. But the southpaw took the loss as the A's offense came up short against the Blue Jays, 3-2. He's lasted at least five innings in every start this season, save for a May 17 outing against Cleveland in which he was ejected in the second inning for arguing balls and strikes.
"It's very important [to go deep into games] -- to be consistent out there, not tax your bullpen, and just get as many outs as possible," Kazmir said. "If you have quicker games and a lot of quick outs, the [fielders] get a lot more comfortable out there, and it feels like we're in the dugout a lot more."
In four starts at O.co Coliseum this year, Kazmir is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA. He has limited opposing hitters to a .215 batting average and a .133 clip with runners in scoring position.
Tigers: Lineup led by stars
Detroit is one of two teams in the AL with two players leading their respective positions in votes for the 2014 All-Star Game, set to take place at Target Field in Minneapolis on July 15.
Cabrera and second baseman Ian Kinsler have the inside track to starting positions after Tuesday's initial balloting update. The Yankees are the only other AL team with two players currently in position to start the July 15 game at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Cabrera was an All-Star at third base last season, but he's leading the pack at first base so far this year. Cabrera is aiming for his fifth straight and ninth overall All-Star Game nod, and he is batting .324 with eight home runs and a league-high 18 doubles.
Kinsler, who joined the Tigers in the offseason as a result of a trade with the Rangers in exchange for first baseman Prince Fielder, leads the AL's closest race at second base. Robinson Cano, starring in his first season with the Mariners, is less than 6,000 votes behind Kinsler, and Boston's Dustin Pedroia is only about 7,000 behind Cano.
A's: Norris playing way out of platoon
When the season began, the A's decided to use a platoon at the catcher position: left-handed hitter John Jaso would start against righties, and right-handed hitter Derek Norris would face lefties.
But Norris has made it tough for manager Bob Melvin to leave him out of the lineup, no matter who the A's were facing. Before Jaso got the nod against righty Max Scherzer on Tuesday, Norris had started eight of 10 games behind the plate. He boasts a .316/.416/.513 slash line in 2014, and his .929 OPS ranks first among MLB catchers with at least 100 at-bats.
So Melvin decided that when the A's face right-hander Anibal Sanchez on Wednesday, Norris would be the one serving as Kazmir's battery mate.
"There's a good chance he'll be in there tomorrow," Melvin said Tuesday, before modifying his statement. "He will be in there tomorrow."
Jaso is batting .288 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and a .384 on-base percentage -- offensive production many teams would welcome from their catcher. But Norris has simply been too good to keep on the bench.
"Derek has thrust himself into this role based on production," Melvin said. "That's a credit to him."
Norris was third in All-Star votes among AL catchers in the first ballot released Tuesday.
• Since May 17, A's outfielder Coco Crisp is 7-for-36 (.194) with five doubles and five walks. Crisp missed seven games from May 7-16 with neck pain after crashing into the outfield wall to make a leaping catch, and the same pain caused him to miss parts of two games last week.
• A's third baseman Josh Donaldson leads all Major League players in WAR (3.9), and on Tuesday was announced as the leader in All-Star Game votes among AL third basemen. It would be his first appearance.
Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.