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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rotation alignment makes it unlikely Verlander would start All-Star Game for 2nd straight year


DETROIT — Unless something gets the rotation out of kilter over the final three weeks before the midsummer break, the Detroit Tigers won’t have the same guy start the All-Star Game for the second year in a row.

The way he’s pitched lately, that’s probably not that big of an issue.

Justin Verlander, who started the 2012 All-Star Game, and is slated to pitch on the final day of the first half, Sunday, July 14, would likely be precluded from pitching in the game by rule, even if he’s selected.

“They can’t pitch,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who will skipper this year’s American League team, of the rules governing the potential usage of Sunday starters. “The guy Saturday can pitch an inning — probably an inning. But the guy Sunday can’t pitch. But they’re recognized as All-Stars, and they go. They have to go. You just replace somebody like that.”

Verlander has struggled enough — including Sunday’s abbreviated, five-inning start — that his chances of forcing that decision are dwindling by the day.

The only pitcher in Tigers history to start back-to-back All-Star Games was Jim Bunning in 1961 and 1962.

At a minimum, though, there could still be a Tigers pitcher starting the game, even if it’s unlikely to be Verlander.

Max Scherzer, the first pitcher in the majors to 11 wins, starts the Saturday before, which would likely limit him to an inning, at most.

“I would, knock on wood, assume Scherzer’s going to be on the team. I don’t know that. We’ll see. I would assume the players would vote Scherzer, but I don’t know that,” Leyland said. “You never know how that goes.”

It’s no easier for Leyland to predict which of the worthy starting pitchers — guys like Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish, Clay Buchholz, Hiroki Kuroda or Hisashi Iwakuma — will be available to him.

Lining up the potential available pitchers this far out is a difficult exercise, if Leyland is trying to look ahead to see who he might name as the starter for the July 16 game at Citi Field in New York.

“I don’t know everybody else’s rotation. I can kind of figure it out, but I don’t know how it’s going to end up with guys pitching a potential All-Star on Sunday,” he said. “Then obviously we’ll have to make some adjustments to the pitching. They would still make the team, you would just have other guys that make it.”

The only wrench that might get thrown into the scheduling of the Tigers’ rotation is if they bring back Anibal Sanchez — who has been on the disabled list since June 16 with stiffness in his shoulder — in a different spot than he’d been occupying. He’s expected back on July 1, after Jose Alvarez subs for him one more time on Wednesday.

Sanchez long-tossed on the field Saturday, and felt fine afterward, according to Leyland.

“That’s good news,” the skipper said, “but you never know until they start throwing, and there are guys standing in there, hitting.”

It stands to reason that Sanchez might be the first one to pitch coming out of the All-Star break, though. Leyland will have to see how the break itself plays out — like if any of his starters are selected to pitch — before he can plan for the post-break rotation.

“I think you always use common sense, and you probably end up coming back last with the guy you think needs the most rest,” Leyland said.

“I have already thought about one scenario. You look at it two ways: If Sanchez comes back here shortly, which I believe he will. He’s had a couple starts off, so he might be a guy to come out of the chute. Possibility. Give the other guys that have been pitching every time, push them back a little bit. Plus, I don’t know who’s going to be on the All-Star team.”

With no off days between now and the break, Leyland said he was planning on getting people rest whenever possible.

“Starting Tuesday, we got a real tough stretch until the All-Star break, and I’ll probably rest every single player at least a day, at some point in that stretch. And that includes the big guys,” the manager said, noting that he wouldn’t do anything to mess with Prince Fielder’s streak of 417 consecutive games played, but will put him at designated hitter. “They’ll probably be rest for every single player, because it’s going to be a tough stretch.”

Projected Tigers rotation through All-Star break 
June 25, vs. LAA...........Rick Porcello
June 26, vs. LAA...........Jose Alvarez
June 27, vs. LAA...........Doug Fister

June 28, at TB...............Max Scherzer
June 29, at TB...............Justin Verlander
June 30, at TB...............Rick Porcello

July 1, at TOR................Anibal Sanchez/Jose Alvarez
July 2, at TOR................Doug Fister
July 3, at TOR................Max Scherzer
July 4, at TOR................Justin Verlander

July 5, at CLE................Rick Porcello
July 6, at CLE................Anibal Sanchez/Jose Alvarez
July 7, at CLE................Doug Fister
July 8, at CLE................Max Scherzer

July 9, vs. CWS.............Justin Verlander
July 10 vs. CWS............Rick Porcello
July 11 vs. CWS............Anibal Sanchez/Jose Alvarez

July 12 vs. TEX.............Doug Fister
July 13 vs. TEX.............Max Scherzer
July 14 vs. TEX.............Justin Verlander

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