07/13/11 1:40 AM ET
All-Star experience not all play for Tigers
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
While the AL squad was in the visiting clubhouse signing autographs and getting ready for batting practice, Verlander was in the bullpen. It was his day to throw his side session, after all, and not even an All-Star Game -- or the ribbing of his All-Star teammates -- was going to interrupt that. He wasn't eligible to pitch in the game, anyway, since he pitched two days earlier for the Tigers.
"He threw a bullpen at the All-Star Game," Red Sox All-Star Josh Beckett marveled, with a little bit of teasing, at the ace to his right in the clubhouse. "We'll just call him Cy Young."
Verlander smiled and grabbed his cell phone.
"I gotta call Skip [manager Jim Leyland], tell him I'm good to go," Verlander said.
Verlander had arranged the flight that carried most of his Tigers teammates to the Midsummer Classic on Sunday night, and by the time the game was over, he had the plane prepared for the flight home and a car ready to pick up interested teammates from the ballpark. Some stayed over on Tuesday night, taking advantage of the extra off-day before the Tigers are back in action on Friday night.
Before they left, though, the Tigers made their impact, and had a brief scare when Miguel Cabrera left the game as a precaution with soreness in his right side.
Catcher Alex Avila said on Monday that the biggest moment for his first All-Star experience would come when he took the field with the rest of the American League starters. It didn't disappoint for him.
"It was great," Avila said as he made his way out of Chase Field. "I mean, the crowd was great. The whole experience was fantastic. I wouldn't have expected anything else. It was just great. It was a good time."
As far as the catching portion of the job, Avila compared it to a Spring Training outing, working with pitchers he has never caught before. But he had a little better stuff to catch than he did most days in the spring. Starting with the Angels' Jered Weaver and continuing with the Yankees' David Robertson and the Mariners' Michael Pineda, Avila helped the American League mow down National League hitters with one-hit ball through the first three innings before Prince Fielder hit a three-run home run off Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson in the fourth.
Avila did not have to face Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, but grounded out to short in his first at-bat to end the third inning against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee. He came back up in the fifth and hit a sharp ground ball that Reds first baseman Joey Votto fielded on a nice play for the out.
Once Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta entered the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, Detroit had all three of its All-Star position players on the field. The Tigers haven't had that since 2007, when Ivan Rodriguez, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez all were voted into the starting lineup from the reigning American League champions.
Given the stingy pitching the Tigers faced during Interleague Play over the previous few weeks, the parade of NL All-Star arms that held down the AL lineup had to feel a little familiar.
"That was a night for the pitchers," Peralta said. "Unbelievable. Nothing easy today."
Like Avila, Peralta was a first-time All-Star, added as a reserve shortstop when New York's Derek Jeter backed out as an injury precaution. He flew out to right field in the sixth inning against former Tiger Jair Jurrjens, then popped out to second against Padres closer Heath Bell to end the eighth.
His most exciting moment came during pregame introductions, looking out at the crowd.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "It feels really good. Everybody has the best pitching and best hitting here now. You have to be excited to be here."
The one Tiger who was eligible to play and didn't was Jose Valverde. AL manager Ron Washington had tabbed him to close if the AL took a lead into the ninth inning, but it had a 5-1 deficit. So he sat.
Valverde said on Monday he had a new celebration ready if he closed out the All-Star Game. His hours that he claimed he spent rehearsing at the hotel went to waste.
"No dance," Valverde said.
It was a busy week, but to Avila, it was still a relaxing break from the stretch of 37 games in 38 days that the Tigers endured heading into the break.
"Right now, it's good after that kind of stretch we had," Avila said. "As much stuff as we're going through now, it's a break from just the day-to-day game preparation. That's about as big of a break as we would get physically."
Avila's All-Star workload did not include catching Verlander's side session.
"He asked me, though," Avila said. "I said, 'No, I don't think so.' It was quite funny."