Verlander up for AL's Final Vote

Verlander up for AL's Final Vote

PITTSBURGH -- A last-minute voting surge vaulted Ivan Rodriguez to his 13th All-Star selection. The same kind of momentum could push Justin Verlander to his first.

For the first time, the Tigers have a contestant in the All-Star Final Vote, the online voting process to select the 32nd and final player on each league's All-Star roster. Verlander, the 23-year-old rookie who has looked like a veteran while pitching his way through Major League lineups, will be in a five-way balloting contest for the final spot on the American League roster. Judging from the competition, his pitchers' duel with Johan Santana in May might have been easier.

It certainly doesn't make his next start on Tuesday at Oakland any easier.

"I knew there was a chance [of making the team]," Verlander said, "but I didn't tell myself I was either going to be on it or not. So right now, I'm kind of stuck in the middle. It's better than being out."

At the very least, it prolongs the debate over Verlander, whose 10 wins had him tied for the AL lead entering Sunday. Three of the other five 10-win pitchers with him made the team, but White Sox ace Freddy Garcia did not, despite having his manager help select the roster.

The dominance, however, goes beyond the win column. His 3.13 ERA ranked fourth in the league as of Sunday. He has outpitched All-Star pitchers Johan Santana, Scott Kazmir and Chris Carpenter, while competing well in defeat opposite Jose Contreras. He posted a 20-inning scoreless streak that included eight innings to outpitch Santana for a 2-0 victory, followed by his first Major League shutout in a five-hitter at Kansas City.

Now in its fifth year, the Monster 2006 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, and continues until 6 p.m. ET Thursday. The winners will be announced on ESPN and shortly thereafter.

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2006 All-Star Final Vote -- online now at, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans can also text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to receive the All-Star Final Vote Candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. For $.30 per text message vote, fans will have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can get the mobile ballot now. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 28776.

The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 77th All-Star Game via the Monster 2006 All-Star Game MVP Vote on

The All-Star Game, to be held at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on Tuesday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

"I'll make a vote," said teammate Kenny Rogers, one of just two All-Star starters whom Verlander didn't face. "I'll have all my family vote for him. Because I know what [Verlander and other Tigers pitchers] have done here. I've seen it day in and day out. Every one of the starters here have been fantastic."

Verlander was part of the All-Star festivities last year at Comerica Park, but that was for the Futures Game. For the fireballing right-hander, just two years out of college, the future is now. He became the first rookie pitcher in the Majors since Kaz Ishii in 2002 -- and the first Tigers rookie pitcher in the modern era -- to win 10 games by the All-Star break.

On the other hand, rookie pitchers are not often found on the All-Star team, especially if their team already has a player on the team.

In the past, the five contestants have been either all position players or all pitchers, allowing managers to balance out their roster in advance. This time, there's a mix, and a tough one at that. Verlander will be matched up against fellow AL rookie pitching sensation Francisco Liriano of Minnesota, Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez.

He'll need a big vote effort to make it. His Tigers teammates, at least, are readying to help out, even the least computer-literate person on the team.

"I'll have [my son] Patrick load it up," he said. "I can't even turn my computer on, so I'll have my kids do it."

The kid on the Tigers roster was already making plans to do so as he headed for the team plane going to Oakland.

"Do we have Internet on the flight?" he asked. "Click, click, click."

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