DETROIT — Tigers manager Jim Leyland will call the shots in Tuesday’s All-Star Game with two objectives in mind.
"We’re going to try to win the game," he said, "and we’re going to try to put on a good show."
In other words, don’t expect him to rest the best player in baseball. Miguel Cabrera will play — and in more than a cameo role.
Cabrera, who has played through a sore back in recent weeks, heeded the Tigers’ advice to skip Monday’s home run derby. But the game itself, with home-field advantage in the World Series at stake, is another story. Leyland suggested Cabrera and the rest of his AL starters will play at least five innings.
"I’ll probably play him a certain amount of innings, but it won't be three, I can tell you that," he said of Cabrera, who was voted an All-Star by the fans for the first time. "I don't understand why they tell you you've got to play your regulars three innings and you can play your reserves six innings. That doesn't make sense. If they’re voted starters, I would think they'd want them to play more than that, which my starters will. I'm not taking my starters out after three innings."
On the idea of resting his players, Leyland said, "You can't do something to protect your guys and not somebody else's." Besides, his six Tigers traveling to the Midsummer Classic just might play a critical role in the outcome.
Leyland said he will remind his AL players the game’s importance goes far beyond league pride. The team with home-field advantage has won 23 of 28 World Series since 1985. (The exceptions: the Braves in 1992 and 1999, the Yankees in 2003, the Tigers in 2006, and the Rays in 2008.)
"I’m going to come up with those stats, so I can tell them," Leyland said.
RONDON IMPRESSES: Bruce Rondon reached back with near-triple-digit heat and threw all 10 of his pitches for strikes in a perfect four-out appearance Friday.
If that sounds like the stuff of a closer — or a set-up man — Leyland says slow down.
While the oft-wild 22-year-old displayed his vast promise more than ever Friday, the Tigers need to see more of the same before moving Rondon into a defined late-inning role.
"He's making a lot of progress," Leyland said. "I don't expect him to be a finished product this year, but this is a nice little opprotunity for him to get some experience, and learn how to handle an outing that's not too good. You've got to be careful with [him]. You've got to read chapter one before you read chapter two."
Billed as the Tigers’ closer of the future, Rondon failed to win the job in spring training and began the year in Toledo. He was 1-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 14 saves in 29 2/3 innings over two stints for the Mud Hens, and has allowed three runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings since being called up to Detroit for the second time last month.
GRINDING ALONG: As the Tigers head into the All-Star break, Leyland took a light jab at the talk-radio crowd wondering why they haven’t clinched the division yet.
First-place Detroit began Saturday with a 2 1/2-game lead over Cleveland.
"I think we've done pretty good," Leyland said. "We probably haven't lived up to the unrealistic expectations of some people. Some people think we're going to walk away with the Central and be in the playoffs and go to the World Series. It just doesn't work like that.
"To those people, it probably hasn't been as good as they would like. But to us, it's just work. It’s grind it out until the end to see who's standing. That’s what we did last year."