July 6, 2014 at 11:57 pm

Tony Paul

All-Star Game Insider: Uneven first half leaves Tigers' Justin Verlander home for All-Star break

Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander saw his string of five straight All-Star Game berths snapped this season. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Detroit — For the first time since 2008, Justin Verlander is getting an in-season vacation.

The Tigers ace, of course, is not on the American League All-Star team, following a rough first half of the season in which his ERA is 4.71 and his WHIP is a career-worst 1.491.

Now this from manager Brad Ausmus: A break for Verlander — an All-Star every year from 2009-13, though he didn’t pitch in last year’s game — isn’t a bad thing.

“Not just for Justin,” Ausmus said before Sunday night’s game against the Rays. “For the guys that don’t make the team —and don’t get me wrong, all the guys would rather be on the team — the All-Star break is really the one vacation you get all season. You get a day off here, a day off there, but a lot of times, it’s a travel day, so you don’t have a lot of time to plan anything or go anywhere.

“The All-Star break is really the one time where players can shut their brain off from baseball for a few days and really decompress. So I think it’s important for everyone.”

Verlander, 31, set a Tigers record for a pitcher by making his fifth consecutive All-Star Game last year. Amazingly, Jack Morris, Mickey Lolich and Denny McLain never made more than two consecutive All-Star teams; Hal Newhouser and Jim Bunning never made it more than three years in a row.

But this year for Verlander hasn’t gone according to plan, though he’s been better in recent starts.

As for those vacations, where do you go, Brad?

“I went just north of Traverse City when I played here one year, we stayed at a place on the lake,” Ausmus said. “Now I have a place in Cape Cod.

“I usually didn’t go to the All-Star Game.”

Ausmus did make it once, in 1999, while he was playing for the Tigers. That was during the nine-year stretch in which the Tigers had only a single representative. Ausmus was sandwiched between such Tigers All-Stars as Damion Easley and Todd Jones.

Ausmus, of course, was more of a defensive catcher — a darn good one — than an offensive hero, and it’s the offensive numbers that usually draw such accolades. That said, this year’s game, actually, will feature two of the best defensive catchers starting, Salvador Perez of the Royals in the American League and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals in the National League.

Perez is filling in for starter Matt Wieters of the Orioles; he is out after Tommy John surgery.

One All-Star, two teams

Jeff Samardzija is with the A’s now, but he might just put the Cubs hat atop his long mane once more.

The right-handed starter was named to the NL All-Star team, just two days after he was traded over to the AL — in a blockbuster trade that went down late Friday night.

It’s the first All-Star selection for Samardzija, 29, who now won’t get to pitch in the game.

That’s OK. He went from last place in the NL Central to first place in the AL West.

Good enough, I’d say.

“That’s all right,” Samardzija told the Associated Press. “I’ll just go through whatever ceremonies they have and just jump over to the AL dugout with an NL jersey on.”

The A’s technically have an MLB-best six All-Stars; Samardzija, who won his AL debut Sunday afternoon, would actually give them seven.

Farrell doesn't play favorites

Not too many out-of-this-world snubs this year.

In fact, the Tigers, who didn’t get Ian Kinsler or Rick Porcello on the team, might have the biggest beef, though that’s nothing to get up in arms about.

It’s definitely OK given the AL manager, John Farrell of the Red Sox, could’ve loaded up the roster with his players, but decided against it — probably given their standing in the AL East.

Slugger David Ortiz and closer Koji Uehara are staying home.

That’s really refreshing, given all the times we’ve seen All-Star managers play favorites when filling out the roster. Remember, Joe Torre of the Yankees was always a big offender.

“That’s one of the benefits,” Ausmus said. “You can do that when you win the World Series.”

All-Star predictions

Time to make some picks.

Final Vote: AL — This is where Porcello gets a shot to be an All-Star for the first time. And he might get the votes. Remember, Tigers fans made Brandon Inge an All-Star in 2008 thanks to their rampant voting. But if we’re being fair, Porcello doesn’t have the best numbers of the five candidates; in fact, he might have the worst. This spot should go to White Sox ace Chris Sale. I don’t care that he was on the DL for a month. The dude is unhittable. NL — This is a much tougher call, because the numbers are so bunched up. In other words, it’s a coin flip, if you can find a five-sided coin. For that reason, Justin Morneau of the Rockies is my guy. What a homecoming that would be July 15 in Minneapolis.

Starting pitcher: AL — Well, for the first time since 2011, it won’t be a Tiger. But you can’t really go wrong with any of the top-line guys. The hype will be on Yankees “rookie” Masahiro Tanaka, though I doubt it’s him — and not because the AL manager is from the rival Red Sox. Tanaka pitches Sunday, two days for the All-Star Game. Therefore, it should probably be Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. NL — Do you really need to ask? Clayton Kershaw, please.

Three up ...

1. Kudos to Jose Bautista, who, amazingly, was the leading vote-getter, even over Mike Trout.

2. In the AL, it will be just like old times, with Derek Jeter-Robinson Cano at short and second.

3. The re-emergence of Phillies 2B Chase Utley, as he gets his first appearance since 2010.

… Three down

1. No All-Star quotes in your morning newspaper? Thank MLB and ESPN, who had to wait till Sunday night to share the news with the masses.

2. Give Brewers fans credit. They’re passionate. But 3B Aramis Ramirez is a rather puzzling starter.

3. In Bud Selig’s last act, we hope we stops giving World Series home-field advantage to the winner of the All-Star Game. It’s. An. Ex. Hi. Bi. Ti. On.

Diamond digits

14 — All-Star appearances for Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and this will be his last one — ahead of his retirement at season’s end. So, yes, expect the All-Star Game narrative to be heavy on Jeets, just like last year when it was all Mariano Rivera.

24 — Tigers All-Stars from 2009-14, which is one more than they had from 1988-2005.

1991 — Last time a Tigers first baseman started the All-Star Game (Cecil Fielder).

He said it

“I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them. But especially so, I’m looking forward to this one.”

Derek Jeter, Yankees shortstop, talking to MLB.com about his upcoming All-Star Game appearance, which will be the last of his Hall of Fame career.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/tonypaul1984