Notes: All-Star voting heating up

Tigers notes: All-Star voting heating up

DETROIT -- Barring a final surge in online balloting, the team with baseball's best record will not have a starting position player at the All-Star Game.

In the final balloting update released on Tuesday, Ivan Rodriguez saw his deficit to Boston's Jason Varitek jump from around 27,000 votes to just over 42,000. It remains the closest race for a starting position, but it's not as close as it was a week ago, and there's not much time left to erase the gap. Online balloting at ends Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.

None of the other Tigers position players made up much ground, either. Placido Polanco remains fifth among AL second basemen, while Chris Shelton seems to have settled into sixth place at first base. Magglio Ordonez is again a surprisingly weak 12th among AL outfielders.

With that in mind, the Tigers will have to look for help in balloting among players, coaches and managers to determine most of the pitching and reserve spots. Even that, however, is no guarantee. Minnesota's Joe Mauer has built a strong case to make the roster as the second catcher, even though he's third in fan balloting.

Some Tigers will make it, of course. The question is whether more than one will.

Manager Jim Leyland won't reveal his entire ballot, but he's not shy about one particular player he's pushing. Not only did he vote for setup man and part-time closer Fernando Rodney, he recommended Rodney to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen when the two happened to be talking before a game in Chicago earlier this month.

"I just felt like his quality has been unnoticed," Leyland said. "I think he's been fantastic. When [Todd Jones] was out, he was fantastic, and he's been fantastic ever since. But I doubt that he'll make it."

That's about as far as Leyland will go to put in a good word for a player in terms of All-Star consideration. He won't lobby hard, because he knows how difficult it is as an All-Star manager to pick a team. When he managed the NL All-Stars in 1998, he spent two months looking at potential selections and trying to make out a roster.

"You're always going to have somebody mad at you when it comes down to the extra player," Leyland said.

Santiago at second: Leyland had originally planned on resting Polanco for Wednesday's series finale so he could pair it up with Thursday's off-day. He later changed his mind because he wanted Polanco to face left-hander Andy Pettitte, who starts for Houston in the series finale.

Polanco, however, is batting .208 this season against lefties, compared to .316 versus right-handers. His skill against southpaws is better seen over his career numbers; his .321 Major League average versus lefties entering Tuesday is 30 points higher than against righties.

"The average doesn't show it obviously," Leyland said, "but I didn't want to sit Polly against the left-hander."

Ramon Santiago, 2-for-7 lifetime against Roger Clemens, started in Polanco's place Tuesday.

Back behind the plate: Eric Munson and Brandon Inge were considered the future of the Tigers three years ago, only at different positions. Munson, a catcher in college at USC, was on his second position switch, becoming a regular third baseman. Inge, a shortstop and closer in college, was the regular catcher.

Neither one quite made it there, but they've found new life switching spots. Inge is now Detroit's everyday third baseman, and a surprisingly adept one at that. Munson, non-tendered by the Tigers after the 2004 season and cut the Twins after that, has resurfaced in Houston as a backup catcher.

Munson realizes the irony.

"It's crazy how it works out," Munson. "That's baseball."

Maroth rehab continues: Mike Maroth stretched out his throwing session from 60 to 90 feet Tuesday as he works his arm back into shape following surgery to remove bone chips last month. No official timetable has been released on his return, though case history suggests he could be back in August or September.

Mohr outfield help at Toledo: The Tigers have signed well-traveled Major League outfielder Dustan Mohr to a Minor League contract. He's expected to report to Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old right-handed batter became a free agent last week after declining a Minor League assignment from the Red Sox. He batted .175 (7-for-40) this season for Boston, his fourth team in as many years. He has also played for the Rockies and Giants after spending the first three seasons of his career in Minnesota.

Coming up: The Tigers finish their homestand Wednesday with a 1:05 p.m. ET matinee against the Astros. Justin Verlander (9-4, 3.39 ERA) will try to join Kenny Rogers in the 10-win club. Andy Pettitte (6-8, 5.75 ERA) will start for Houston.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.