CLEVELAND -- Joaquin Benoit's job in the Tigers' bullpen is to protect leads. Get him an advantage and he'll finish it out.
After the first balloting updates for the2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote, Benoit is going to need some help from Tigers fans and others to earn the last spot on the American League roster.
With more than 16 million votes already in, the five-reliever race for the final AL spot is close enough that Benoit led at one point, according to a release. Benoit currently sits fourth, but he is less than 600,000 votes off the lead held by Toronto's Steve Delabar.
On Monday, the Tigers and Giants announced a Final Vote partnership, encouraging Detroit fans to vote for Benoit as well as San Francisco outfielder Hunter Pence and vice versa. The teams unveiled the #BackBenoit and #BackPence hastags, the official tags to be used to cast votes for the pair during Thursday's social media voting period between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, also marking the final six hours of voting.
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 will end Thursday at 4 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
The Tigers have had success building up players for the Final Vote before, getting Brandon Inge into the 2009 All-Star Game. They've also had success getting relievers recognized for stellar seasons with All-Star selections, such as Jose Valverde two years ago.
They're hoping to do the same with Benoit, whose six saves in six opportunities and nine holds have continued his track record of quiet production and late-inning lockdown innings. No other reliever in the Final Vote brings the combination of as many saves and holds as Benoit, who earned his well-deserved chance to take over Detroit's closer role last month.
AL CANDIDATES BY THE NUMBERS
* Stats entering July 11
Statistically, Benoit is enjoying his best season since his 2010 breakout season with Tampa Bay made him one of the game's best setup men. With 44 strikeouts and just 26 hits over 35 1/3 innings, Benoit has put up a level of stinginess not seen from a Tigers closer in a long time. Moreover, he has allowed just two home runs all year, a vast improvement from the 14 he allowed last year.
Along with left-hander Drew Smyly, Benoit has been the glue holding Detroit's bullpen together through its struggles. Now is the opportunity for Tigers fans to return the favor.
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. To vote for another player via text message, use the codes below.
A1 - Joaquin Benoit, Detroit
A2 - Steve Delabar, Toronto
A3 - David Robertson, New York Yankees
A4 - Tanner Scheppers, Texas
A5 - Koji Uehara, Boston
N1 - Ian Desmond, Washington
N2 - Freddie Freeman, Atlanta
N3 - Adrian Gonzalez, Los Angeles
N4 - Hunter Pence, San Francisco
N5 - Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles
For the second consecutive year, the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com (#FinalVote), will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from the candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT) on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the overall vote total used to determine the American League and National League winners. Fans may follow @MLB on the popular social networking service for the latest standings updates in advance of the 4 p.m. EDT balloting deadline.
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 via the 2013 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game. The 84th All-Star Game 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.
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.