Soto joins Miggy on All-Star Game roster

July 10th, 2022

CHICAGO -- On Friday, the Tigers learned that franchise legend Miguel Cabrera would make his triumphant return to the Midsummer Classic.

Two days later, Cabrera found out he’d have company.

Closer Gregory Soto was announced as an All-Star reserve after Detroit’s 4-2 loss to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday. Soto, who earned his first nomination last season, will be the first player to represent the Tigers in back-to-back All-Star Games since Cabrera made seven consecutive appearances from 2010-16.

“It's very exciting,” Soto said via team interpreter Carlos Guillén. “Very exciting for me, for my family. I'm really excited for being there and performing for myself, my family and also for my team.”

Soto has had no trouble maintaining his momentum from last year’s breakout campaign, continuing to serve as the anchor for a Detroit bullpen that boasts the third-lowest combined ERA in the bigs (3.05). The southpaw entered Sunday tied for seventh in the Majors with 17 saves in 30 innings pitched. That’s just one fewer than he had in all of 2021, and in 33 2/3 fewer innings.

Though Soto has seen his strikeout rate dip slightly year over year, it has hardly had an impact on his overall numbers. His 2.67 ERA is lower than ever before, and the same can be said for his WHIP (1.25).

“They really could have picked any number of relievers on this team,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I knew they were going to come somewhere out of our 'pen, but Soto gets to go back to back and is one of the established closers in the league. He’ll represent us well.”

One key to Soto’s improved numbers has been his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. The 27-year-old entered Sunday allowing just 0.30 home runs per nine innings on the mound, another career low. That metric appears surprising on the surface, especially since Soto’s flyball rate is the highest it has ever been. Despite that, only 3.1 percent of the fly balls he has allowed this year have cleared the fence, the lowest rate of his career by a wide margin.

Soto will travel to Los Angeles alongside Cabrera, who could essentially start modeling for his Hall of Fame plaque tomorrow. The 39-year-old was added to the American League roster Friday as a legacy selection by Commissioner Rob Manfred and will serve as the 33rd player for the American League.

“It’s going to be fun,” Soto said, of representing the Tigers with Cabrera. “Him and I, we get along very good together all the time. We have so much fun together, and being able to be with him, with him invited the way he was invited, it's going to be such an emotional and fun opportunity.”

It marks the 12th All-Star appearance of Cabrera’s wildly decorated career, the first of which occurred just a couple of months before Tigers rookie outfielder Riley Greene’s fourth birthday. The two-time MVP is slashing .310/.386/.528 this season and remains on the precipice of adding even more history to his resume. With 1,835 career RBIs, Cabrera is just one shy of tying Ken Griffey Jr. for 16th all-time. He’s a double away from 605 for his career, which would tie him with Paul Molitor for 15th all time.

While Soto still has a few All-Star nominations to achieve before catching up to his prolific teammate, he remains thankful for the chance to make his second appearance. Considering the way the starter-turned-reliever’s career began in Detroit, getting to go at all is an experience he never could’ve imagined.

“I didn't even picture myself going as a starter,” Soto said. “That’s part of the blessings that, thank God, I've been receiving. So I’ve got to keep working hard to just keep going and going to the All-Star Game.”