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Cabrera hopes to earn All-Star nod

Cabrera hopes to earn All-Star nod

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ANAHEIM -- Miguel Cabrera won a home run title last year but not an All-Star selection. The Tigers are hoping to take care of the latter this year, but he'll need a lot of votes to do it.

Only one American League home run champion since 1993 hasn't been on the American League's All-Star team the following year, and that exception came when Ken Griffey Jr. changed leagues in 2001. The challenge facing Cabrera -- and Tigers fans, practically speaking -- is that Cabrera plays at what should be one of the most hotly contested positions on this year's All-Star ballot, just released on Wednesday at MLB.com. And without the designated hitter for this year's July 14 Midsummer Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the competition gets even tougher.

While last year's starting first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, will again have the support of Red Sox Nation, Yankees fans will try to welcome new first baseman Mark Teixeira with an All-Star nod. Justin Morneau has enjoyed support well beyond the Upper Midwest the last couple of years, and Carlos Pena will likely draw from the same national fanfare that cheered Tampa Bay's enthralling run to the World Series last fall.

Not only will plenty of deserving candidates be left out of the starting lineup, more than one probably won't make the team at all. The Tigers and their equally impressive fan base will try to ensure Cabrera isn't left out.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Balloting at Comerica Park begins with the start of the next homestand on April 28 and runs through June 21.

A four-time All-Star with the Florida Marlins, Cabrera has certainly done his part on the field to earn votes. In contrast to last year's slow start, Cabrera has put on a hitting display over the season's first two-plus weeks. His .489 batting average and 23 hits over the season's first two weeks led all AL hitters, while his three home runs and 10 RBIs over opening week earned him consideration for the year's first AL Player of the Week honors.

After Cabrera spent much of last season's first half trying to acclimate himself to a new league and new team, including a shift from third base to first, Detroit's slugger is clearly feeling comfortable in his surroundings these days. He's essentially carrying over the impressive numbers that he put up over the final four months of last season, including the stretch run that earned him the home run title.

"He came over in the trade with big expectations because of the contract and everything that goes with it," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he's settled in now. He's relaxed. I know he likes it here. I'm sure that's a big help to him. He's a force. There's no question about it."

Not only is a force, but with that comfort level, he's also showing fans this year that he has a personality. The Tigers had a Cabrera bobblehead doll as a giveaway item at Comerica Park last week, which Leyland enjoyed.

"He's got a great face, that kid," Leyland said. "He's one of those guys that brightens up the room."

Cabrera isn't the only player with hopes to put a Tiger back in the All-Star lineup after last year's absence. Magglio Ordonez will try for his third All-Star selection as a Tiger in the highly competitive outfield race, while Placido Polanco will try to compete with reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia and others at second. Curtis Granderson, meanwhile, will pick up his quest for his elusive first All-Star selection. Brandon Inge is back on the ballot at third base.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

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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