NEW YORK -- Miguel Cabrera has always been a popular figure on All-Star media day. His talent draws attention. This year, though, was different.
The crowd of reporters holding cameras, microphones and notebooks was three-deep around his table by the time he settled in for All-Star media day on Monday afternoon. They ranged from Venezuelan reporters looking to talk to the national hero, to beat writers looking to set up his quest for the Triple Crown opposite Chris Davis in the season's second half, to general interest writers asking players what kind of animal they would be if they could be any animal.
Cabrera took it all, a smile on his face. If he didn't have a superstar spotlight in past All-Star festivities, last year's Triple Crown and this year's gaudier numbers assured he would.
Amazing to think, then, that this All-Star Game is his first where the fans put him here by voting him into the starting lineup. That's what makes this special for him.
"This is a lot different," he said as he finished up his 45-minute session in the afternoon heat at Citi Field. "This is special. I'm going to start tomorrow. It's a different feeling."
Instead of competing against Davis, for one night, Davis will protect him in the lineup. Cabrera will bat third in the American League batting order, the same spot he has owned in Detroit ever since Prince Fielder came to town. He'll just have a different first baseman hitting behind him for a while.
It's a 3-4 combination whose half-seasons totaled 67 home runs, 188 RBIs and better than an 1.120 OPS.
"Even I can't mess that one up, I don't think," Tigers and AL manager Jim Leyland said of his batting order at a Monday afternoon press conference.
Cabrera is still dealing with a sore back that has bothered him for at least two weeks, but he's not going to let it keep him out of this.
"I feel better," he said. "Hopefully, Friday I'll be 100 percent."
Leyland has said he will play his regulars more than the required three innings. More likely, they'll get five or six innings, so Cabrera will not have a cameo appearance like in the previous few years. He'll get two or three plate appearances to try to give a glimpse of the hitting show he has put on all season in Detroit.
While Cabrera prepares for a larger role, the last Tiger to follow up an AL MVP Award with an All-Star start is kicking back a bit. Justin Verlander came to town Sunday night knowing he won't pitch Tuesday, having just started for the Tigers to close out the first half.
He might throw a side session in the bullpen on Tuesday afternoon to prepare himself to start for the Tigers next weekend at Kansas City, but that's about it.
He's going to enjoy his time here. He wants to talk to Mariano Rivera in his final All-Star Game, and he wants to take in the festivities.
"This is a great vacation for me," said Verlander.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.