Tigers trio enjoys first-half spoils

Tigers trio enjoys first-half spoils

PITTSBURGH -- Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez sat behind one table as he faced more than a dozen reporters with questions for him. A few feet to Rodriguez's left, Detroit right fielder Magglio Ordonez was politely answering questions from another group of reporters.

An hour earlier, Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers took questions in a press conference attended by several hundred media representatives.

Detroit's surprising rise to the top of the American League Central Division and having the best record in baseball at the All-Star break made the Tigers trio one of the most popular contingents Monday, but they didn't seem to mind.

"We're winning, so this [more attention] is good," Rodriguez said. "It's nice you guys want to talk about us winning instead of losing. This is much better."

The Tigers are a hit here, a byproduct of the club's sensational first half as well as the individual performances of Rogers, Rodriguez and Ordonez, who replaced the injured Manny Ramirez of Boston on the AL roster.

For Rodriguez, who is making his 13th All-Star appearance, this one is special.

"I think it's more special for my son, he's really having a good time here," Rodriguez said. "But it's special for me too. Every [All-Star Game] is; it's an honor and you want to do well."

Rodriguez also said it was also an honor for him to compete once again in Pittsburgh, where Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente spent his career.

Clemente, like Rodriguez, was born in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez also played in an All-Star Game here in 1994 at Three Rivers Stadium where Clemente played his final games.

"I'll never forget that one at Three Rivers," he said. "That was a long time ago, but it's still special for me being from Puerto Rico."

This is the fifth All-Star selection for Ordonez, and first since 2003 when he was with the White Sox. Injuries the last two seasons limited the 32-year-old Venezuelan to a total of 134 games over the last two seasons, but once he regained his health he returned to the form that made him an All-Star four of five years during 1999-2003.

"I knew once I was healthy I could get back to my game," Ordonez said. "I knew I could do that, and could get to be an All-Star again."

Ordonez has also patched things up with AL manager Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox, Ordonez's manager during the outfielder's final years in Chicago. The two didn't always see eye to eye but Ordonez extended an olive branch a while back and he and Guillen are fine now.

"No problems," Ordonez said. "We talked, it's cool."

Most observers didn't expect the Tigers, 59-29, to contend this year, let alone have the best record in the game.

Last year the White Sox had the best record in baseball (57-29) at the break and went on to defeat Houston in the World Series.

In 2004, the New York Yankees had the best mark in baseball at the break and went on to lose to Boston in the American League Championship Series. The year before that, Atlanta had the best record at the break and was eliminated by the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series.

"This is only the halfway [point]," Ordonez said. "We have to keep playing good baseball and doing what we've been doing. There's a long way to go, it's too early to start thinking about the playoffs. This is a very tough division, a lot of tough games left."

True, but these Tigers are confident they can get there.

"If we keep getting the pitching and good hitting and we stay healthy, we can do it," Rodriguez said. "But there's a lot of games left. We'll see what happens."

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.