ARLINGTON -- The middle reliever has found a place on the All-Star Game
roster. Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks Joaquin Benoit belongs on it.
Leyland doesn't do a whole lot of lobbying anymore unless the American League All-Star manager asks him, and he usually doesn't do it publicly. He's doing it for Benoit, who owns a 1.85 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 34 innings while arguably keeping the Tigers' bullpen together.
"I voted for him for the All-Star Game," Leyland said. "That pretty much sums it up for me. I think he's as good a setup guy as there is in the game. That's just the way I feel about it."
Managers, like players, cast their votes for players in their league -- two at each position, plus five starting pitchers and three relievers. The results help determine the All-Star pitching staff and bench. Managers can now vote for players on their own team.
Leyland has shown his pull towards middle relievers before. When he managed the AL All-Star team in 2007, he helped put together a Final Vote ballot that included non-closing relievers such as Hideki Okajima and Pat Neshek, with Okajima winning the final roster spot.
"I think [Yankees setup man David] Robertson's an All-Star pitcher," said Leyland, who voted for him, too. "When he comes in the game and he's healthy, I don't feel too good."
Robertson made the All-Star team last year.
"I don't think an All-Star Game should be played, in my opinion, without necessarily some of the best setup guys in all of baseball," Leyland said. "Why shouldn't they get a chance?"