CLEVELAND -- Yes, the Tigers have struggled to find consistency with their bullpen this year, but they haven't questioned what they're getting from Joaquin Benoit.
Now, they're hoping Tigers fans can help get Benoit into the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 16.
"It's an accomplishment that everybody would like to have," Benoit admitted.
In a wild opening to the American League race, Toronto's Steve Delabar is among four candidates to hold a lead. Boston's Koji Uehara, New York's David Robertson and Benoit each have been in first and currently sit in second, third and fourth place, respectively. Remarkably, less than 600,000 votes separate the entire AL field, Delabar to Texas' Tanner Scheppers, who ranks fifth. More than 16 million votes have been cast.
Now in its 12th year, the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Saturday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and ends Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote online. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 14-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 12-26. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on Friday to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for Benoit, simply text message A1 to 89269. In Canada, fans should text A1 to 101010. Standard message and data rates may apply.
The five candidates are all relievers, something Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to do as the All-Star skipper this year. Leyland worked with Major League Baseball officials to put five non-closing relievers on the ballot when he managed the All-Star Game in 2007. He tried to do the same this year.
Benoit is the only closer among them, but he spent the better part of 2 1/2 years as Detroit's setup man before assuming the closer's role two weeks ago. He won't lobby for himself, but he supported the idea.
"It's really hard for [pitchers] other than starters and closers to make the All-Star Game," he said. "Now I'm kind of a closer here. To get recognized, just being voted to try to fill the last spot, it feels good to me. But we're not there yet.
Final Vote candidates
Steve Delabar, TOR
David Robertson, NYY
Koji Uehara, BOS
Tanner Scheppers, TEX
Joaquin Benoit, DET
Ian Desmond, WAS
Freddie Freeman, ATL
Adrian Gonzalez, LAD
Hunter Pence, SF
Yasiel Puig, LAD
"I think to be an All-Star, you don't have to be a starter or a closer. As long as you put up good numbers during the season, you should be recognized."
While Jose Valverde became a ninth-inning star in Detroit, Benoit quietly thrived in the seventh and eighth. Now it's Benoit's time to get some recognition, not just in the ninth, but on the ballot.
Benoit's 93 holds since 2010 rank third among all Major League pitchers to go with 11 saves. This year, he has become the rock holding Detroit's often-shaky bullpen together, going 6-for-6 in save opportunities while recording nine holds and delivering 35 1/3 solid innings with seven earned runs on 26 hits with 10 walks and 44 strikeouts.
In Leyland's words, he has been one of the top relievers in the league since joining Detroit in 2011, and someone Leyland has lobbied past All-Star managers to try to get on the team. This is the chance for Tigers fans to do it.
"I think that the job that he's done here this year and the past two years, again this year, I thought he was a very legitimate candidate," Leyland said. "And we'll let the fans decide who that guy is."
Max Scherzer has a strong chance to start the All-Star Game for the American League. He would love to have Benoit help finish it for him.
"He's come up huge for us," Scherzer said. "We all know how good he is. We all know what his stuff does. We know he's consistent, and we all believe when he takes the mound, he's going to shut the door."
Benoit's catcher, Alex Avila, agreed.
"The way he's pitched for us, he's been one of our All-Stars for sure," Avila said. "He's been one of the biggest contributors to our success the last few years. He's definitely pitched well enough."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 84th All-Star Game -- to be played at Citi Field in New York on Tuesday, July 16 -- will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.