Justin Verlander is back in All-Star form this season.

After winning 17 games in 2006 and another 18 games in 2007, Verlander won just 11 games last season. Now, with a 10-4 record and 3.38 ERA, Verlander is once again an All-Star with the Tigers.

"Just more aggressive," Verlander told the Detroit Free Press. "I kind of had a talk with myself and just said, 'Trust your stuff. Go at guys and see what happens.'"

That seems to have worked, and getting back to the All-Star game is definitely something in which Verlander takes pride.

"Last year wasn't the year I would have liked," he said. "I know this is only a midway point, and it's a long way to go, but it's nice to be there and say the work paid off."

Duke gets called to the office: Zach Duke has been added to the NL All-Star roster, stepping in when Matt Cain was injured over the weekend.

For Duke, being called into Pirates manager John Russell's office was initially unnerving.

"I thought, 'Uh-oh, what did I do?'" Duke told MLB.com, "but it turned out to be a pretty welcome surprise."

It is the first All-Star Game for Duke, who has eight wins and a 3.29 ERA.

Greinke thriving with help of teammates: As one of the top candidates to start the All-Star Game for the AL, Zack Greinke (10 wins, five complete games and a 2.12 ERA) has impressed fans, management and his peers.

"I'm very excited for him. He's come such a long way, for a number of reasons," Kansas City pitching coach Bob McClure told MLB.com. "[General manager Dayton Moore] brought in a class of teammates that has really helped Zack feel more a part of a team. They're more his age, and it's just more comfortable -- they have a really good relationship. And to see him grow as a pitcher, to see him grow as a man has really been exciting, because I'm seeing him enjoy what he's doing. And this is still a game and -- even though it's competitive and our goal is to win a championship -- part of what you've been able to do is enjoy the competition."

Hoffman welcomes last-minute trip to St. Louis: The Milwaukee Brewers gained another All-Star when Trevor Hoffman was selected to replace Jonathan Broxton. This is the seventh All-Star selection for Hoffman.

"Big surprise," Hoffman, 41, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's nice to come in and get that kind of news dropped on you.

"It's a really big honor to be able to represent not only the Brewers but the Brewer bullpen and the work they've accomplished in the first half. I think that's indicative of being able to put a guy like myself in position to go."

Pedroia opts out of All-Star Game: Dustin Pedroia, voted into the starting lineup for the AL in the All-Star Game, will not attend the game in St. Louis in order to stay with his wife, Kelli, who is pregnant and hospitalized, the Boston Globe reported.

"This was certainly not an easy decision," Pedroia said in a statement. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for the game of baseball and for the All-Star Game and am incredibly honored that the fans voted me this year's starting second baseman for the American League. I am disappointed that I will not be able to enjoy the amazing experience with the other All-Stars, especially with my Red Sox teammates, but it is important that I put my family first at this time."

Cruz to put his power on display: Nelson Cruz earned his first All-Star selection on Friday when he was named as the replacement for Torii Hunter.

Now Cruz, who hit his 21st home run of the season into the second deck at Safeco Field on Friday, has been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby, too.

"You always dream about being in the Home Run Derby," Cruz told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I think I have a chance. I think I'm going to do well."

Said manager Ron Washington: "They're going to be shocked about what this boy can do hitting the ball out of the ballpark in BP."

Peña's late addition to include spot in HR Derby: Carlos Peña, who is replacing Dustin Pedroia on the AL All-Star team, will also compete in the Home Run Derby.

Peña will join Brandon Inge of Detroit, Nelson Cruz of Texas and Joe Mauer of Minnesota on the AL Home Run Derby squad.

"I just want to be in it," Peña told the St. Petersburg Times. "I just want to go over there and have a good time. ... Whether I win it or come in dead last, I just want the full experience."

Johnson takes big win to St. Louis: Josh Johnson posted his eighth win in 10 decisions in an 8-1 victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday before going to St. Louis for his first All-Star Game.

Johnson joins Hanley Ramirez in representing the Marlins.

"I'm excited to get a win," Johnson told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "On the way to St. Louis, it'll probably start kicking in, and I'll be asking Hanley what I should be doing 24 hours a day."

Broxton hampered by toe injury: Jonathan Broxton will participate in the All-Star Game festivities, but he will not appear in the game. The Dodgers closer irritated nerve on the big toe in his right foot for which he received a cortisone shot on Saturday.

"I don't want to make excuses, but if you can't push off, you can't use the same mechanics," Broxton told the Los Angeles Times. "You have to do something different so that's going to mess up something -- the velocity or location or not [being] mentally focused out there because you're worried about that."

Cain forced out of action in St. Louis: Matt Cain was selected for the NL All-Star team, but he will not play after being hit in the elbow with a line drive on Saturday.

The Giants' pitcher will still travel to St. Louis to participate in the festivities surrounding the game.

"Sometimes you have to take it out of the player's hands," manager Bruce Bochy told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"It's disappointing not to be able to throw, but we've got other stuff going on here we'd like to take care of," Cain said, referring to the Giants' playoff push. "It worked out all right. I get to go and enjoy it, and Zach [Duke] deserved it."

Church soaking up positive vibes with new team: Ryan Church, who was traded to the Mets for Jeff Francoeur, is already fitting in with the Braves.

"Now that I'm here, I want to be here," Church told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Just that first day playing for Bobby, you could tell it was all positive. Just the vibe, all the positive reinforcements, it's great to be around. Makes you feel good. I can already feel it."

Detwiler impressive in extending his stay: The Nationals are pleased with the progress of top prospect Ross Detwiler, who made 10 starts before his return to Triple-A Syracuse.

"We're extremely happy with the way Detwiler pitched up here," former Nationals manager Manny Acta told the Washington Post. "If you would have told us in Spring Training that this kid was going to start 10 big league games this year, we wouldn't believe it. Our plan was to have him develop down there [in the Minors] and take a look at him in September. He pitched his way up here. He came up here probably to spot start or maybe have two starts up here, and he pitched his way into 10 starts."

Lilly has 100 down, 200 to go: Ted Lilly picked up the 100th victory of his career on Saturday, pitching the Cubs to a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

"It's pretty special," Lilly told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I was thinking about my first, which was in New York [with the Yankees] against Oakland. It's a pretty cool thing, and then your buddies in the clubhouse tell you, 'You have 200 to go."'

Beckett efficient in securing win No. 100: Josh Beckett threw a three-hit complete game shutout on Sunday against the Royals for his 100th career win. Beckett struck out seven and needed only 94 pitches to finish off the Royals in a performance that dropped his ERA to 3.35.

"Yeah, it's pretty memorable," Beckett told the Boston Globe. "And the way I did it is cool. It means I've stuck around for a little while, anyway."

Teahen willing to play wherever he's needed: With Alex Gordon set to return to the Royals' lineup soon, Mark Teahen's role will change.

"Do I wonder what happens?" Teahen told the Kansas City Star. "Not really. I think it's inevitable that I'll go back to bouncing around. Where I'll get the most time, I don't know.

"Obviously, I've enjoyed playing third and playing there every day, but it's no mystery as to who is viewed as the future here at third base. I've just got to continue to do my job wherever I am and let [management] figure out where that is going to be."

Rodriguez to kick off second half: When second-half play resumes on Thursday for the Astros, Wandy Rodriguez will be on the mound in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. Rodriguez leads the team with eight wins and a 2.96 ERA.

"[The coaching staff] told me in San Francisco, and it's an honor for me to gain that confidence to start the first game," Rodriguez told the Houston Chronicle. "I hope to feel well and throw a good game."

Zambrano defers spotlight to Wells: Given the choice, Carlos Zambrano decided to start the first game of a day-night doubleheader against St. Louis on Sunday and give the national TV spotlight to rookie Randy Wells.

"For me, it doesn't matter," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune after his Game 1 victory. "I just want Randy Wells to pitch tonight's game so that people can know him better. Fans, or the people who watch this game tonight, can know him and know he'll be good for us."

-- Red Line Editorial