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Pudge earns place on AL All-Star squad

Pudge earns place on AL All-Star squad

DETROIT -- Ivan Rodriguez is staying here for the All-Star break, but he won't be sitting around the house. Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Inge didn't make the All-Star team, but they're leaving town for the break.

Rodriguez is heading to the All-Star Game for the 12th time in his storied career. He was the lone Tiger selected to the American League roster for next Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at Comerica Park.

"It's great to be in the All-Star Game," Rodriguez said Sunday after the Tigers' 1-0 loss to the Yankees. "I'm very happy to be part of the club again in 2005, especially here in Detroit. I'm going to play in front of my fans here."

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Rodriguez did not repeat as the AL's starting catcher, losing out in fan balloting to Red Sox captain Jason Varitek, therefore unable to become the first catcher voted to start in 11 All-Star Games. Ironically, Mets catcher Mike Piazza accomplished that feat when he earned the NL starting job this year.

Rodriguez led the Tigers in fan balloting with 1,841,385 votes, second among AL catchers. But it was a distant second; Varitek garnered 2,939,648 votes.

"I'm just going to congratulate Jason Varitek," Rodriguez said. "He deserved to be the starter in the All-Star Game. He's had a tremendous first half. I have tremendous respect for him. I'm going to be his backup. I'm going to spend three good days there in the All-Star Game with all those superstars in the same clubhouse."

Instead, Pudge was named as the AL's lone catching reserve in balloting among managers, coaches and players. He beat out the Yankees' Jorge Posada and the Twins' Joe Mauer among other strong candidates.

The honor backed up the belief that Rodriguez remains among the game's greats, even as he ages and his game changes. Though he entered Sunday with just five home runs, his newfound speed this year from an offseason workout change has added a new dimension to his offensive skills. His 21 doubles rank tied for fifth in the American League.

Defensively, Rodriguez has regained quickness and agility behind the plate. He has thrown out 17 of 36 would-be basestealers, good for the second-highest out rate among AL catchers.

If his on-field performance wasn't enough, Rodriguez had another advantage with Detroit hosting this year's game. He's one of two Tigers spokesmen for All-Star FanFest, which opens later this week at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit and runs through July 12. He's expected to make an appearance at FanFest along with Hall of Fame Tiger and special assistant Al Kaline.

Though Rodriguez is the face of the franchise, the Tigers were hoping for more players on the AL All-Star team. Manager Alan Trammell, who will be a coach on the AL squad, said Red Sox manager and All-Star skipper Terry Francona called him earlier this week to ask about Bonderman, among other players.

Bonderman improved to 10-5 Friday night by beating the Yankees, making him one of just five pitchers to reach double-digit victories. The 22-year-old staff ace was the only one of the five to not make the All-Star team. Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland all were selected from the Player Ballot, as were Kenny Rogers and Johan Santana.

Francona added 11-game winner Bartolo Colon with one of his five selections, though Colon was the one pick Francona made that had nothing to do with making sure a team was represented.

All-Star Game 2005

"He should be in the All-Star Game," Rodriguez said of Bonderman. "With 10 wins in the first half, any pitcher should be in the All-Star Game. I told him before the game that he should be in the game. I feel sorry for him and for me, personally. I think everybody can tell you he should be in the All-Star Game."

Many Tigers said the same thing, but Bonderman wasn't one of them.

"There's a lot of guys having great years," he said. "Look at them. If you look in the stats, there's some darn good pitchers that are throwing the ball really well. I'm not really worried about it. I'm more worried about every day when we come here as a team."

Bonderman plans to spend his break fishing in Florida, though his plans could still change. Many years, at least one starting pitcher ends up opting out of the game due to injury or their rotation schedule.

The Tigers entered Sunday ranked fifth among 14 American League teams in ERA. All four teams ahead of them had at least one pitcher make the All-Star team, while the Twins and White Sox had two.

"It's part of the deal when you have a record like we do," Trammell said. "Pudge is the face of the Tigers. He has been since he's been here. He's a guy that will represent us very, very well.

"Should Jeremy Bonderman have been on there? Sure. It was a strong case. But the fact of the matter is we know the process is not as easy as it may seem. If our record was a little better, I think there would've been stronger consideration."

Whether high-strikeout, high-velocity setup man Kyle Farnsworth was in consideration isn't certain, though his 11.18 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth among AL relievers entering Sunday.

The only middle reliever to make the AL team was Justin Duchscherer. He's the only representative from the A's, who have a similar record to the Tigers.

Farnsworth admitted he was hopeful Sunday.

"What can you do? Basically I look at it as a popularity contest," he said. "Eighth-inning guys and middle relief guys, we don't get much credit for what we do. That's the way the game is."

Inge made a surprisingly strong case for a spot at third base with a .294 average, .380 on-base percentage, seven homers and 35 RBIs. However, he faced a deep roster of competition at third base. While fans voted in Alex Rodriguez and players added Melvin Mora, similarly deserving candidates Hank Blalock and Eric Chavez didn't make it in player balloting.

"To be honest with you, it's an honor for itself for me just to even be mentioned as a [possible] All-Star. I'm more of a realist. I know there are several other candidates at third base that are well-deserving."

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

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