Red Sox six-pack leads AL squad
Junior Circuit team includes 10 first-time All-Stars
The Boston Red Sox, owners of the American League's best record entering Monday, are the deserving leaders with six selections to the AL All-Star team, which was announced Sunday afternoon.The Red Sox's representatives include two starters -- second baseman Dustin Pedroia and outfielder Jason Bay -- and Tim Wakefield, the veteran knuckleball pitcher who will be making his All-Star debut at 42. In nine previous All-Star appearances, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has earned three saves in allowing one unearned run over seven innings, tying Dennis Eckersley for the most All-Star Game saves all-time. Rivera thus joins teammates Mark Teixeira and top vote-getter Derek Jeter, the fan-elected starters at first and short, respectively, on the expanded 33-man roster. "I've been there a few times," Rivera said, "and it's a privilege. To me, they're all special. I just want to enjoy it." "It makes you feel good when people respect the way you play, even though they may not be Yankees fans," Jeter said. "It means a lot." Rosters for the 80th Midsummer Classic, to be played on July 14 in St. Louis' Busch Stadium, were announced on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi. On the AL side, the squad includes 10 first-time All-Stars, who will abet the effort to extend their inherited legacy as their league tries to extend its unbeaten streak to 13 All-Star Games since a loss in 1996 in Philadelphia's long-gone Veterans Stadium.
First-timers recognized by the players are pitchers Zack Greinke of the Royals and Edwin Jackson of the Tigers. Their peers also elected first-time infielders Jason Bartlett of the Rays and Aaron Hill of the Blue Jays, as well as Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson.Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon, who will lead the AL at the Midsummer Classic, rewarded the five other All-Star rookies among his eight roster calls: His own infielder, Ben Zobrist; Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones; and pitchers Andrew Bailey of Oakland, Felix Hernandez of Seattle and Wakefield. "I feel very honored and humbled at the same time," Wakefield said. "Excited and nervous. I have a lot of emotions going through me right now." "I'm really happy," said Hernandez. "It has always been a goal, to make the All-Star team. It's great." Bailey may have been speaking for all of the novice All-Stars when he said, "Sitting in the bullpen [during Sunday's game in Cleveland], just thinking about it -- to hear my name associated with some of the names that are going -- it's just going to be incredible." Zobrist is unique among the All-Stars -- a utility man who has started at six different positions, including all three in the outfield. And he has produced everywhere, with 16 homer and 46 RBIs alongside a .286 average. "I just felt like Zobrist's numbers stacked up really well," Maddon said. "You want to be fair to everybody else, but you want to be fair to your own group at the same time. I just looked at the whole thing and felt like Ben definitely belonged on the team." Baltimore manager Dave Trembley called Jones "a great choice," adding, "Adam will represent himself and the Orioles in a real positive way." The A's are one of five teams with only the requisite one selection, along with Baltimore, Kansas City, the White Sox (pitcher Mark Buehrle) and the Indians (catcher Victor Martinez). "That's always good news," Martinez said in greeting his selection. "Unfortunately, I'll be the only one on the team that's going to be there. You always expect to be there with somebody else. But it's another experience I look forward to." Boston right-hander Josh Beckett earned his second All-Star assignment through the balloting by players, who supplemented the fans' vote by adding eight reserves, and picking eight of the 13 pitchers on the league's staff. Interestingly, the players concurred with the fans -- who cast a record 223.5 million online votes -- on five of the eight starting position players. The consensus choices were Jeter, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and outfielders Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and Bay. In those cases, the players' No. 2 choices got the invitation to St. Louis. Without having to defer to the vote of fans, who do not participate in selecting pitchers, the players rounded out the pitching staff with Toronto ace Roy Halladay, making his sixth All-Star appearance, Detroit's Justin Verlander, making his second, and closers Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox and Joe Nathan of the Twins -- the fourth bid for each. The players selected another Justin -- Minnesota first baseman Morneau -- and outfielders Carl Crawford of the Rays and Torii Hunter of the Angels. Maddon added another member of the Red Sox, first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who had lost a nip-and-tuck race to Teixeira in the fans' vote for the starting lineup. "To go there with five of your teammates is a definite positive," Papelbon said. "You feel like you're going to the All-Star Game at full force. I feel like we deserve that." The manager's picks for the mound included Buehrle and Angels closer Brian Fuentes. Fuentes, who leads the Major League with 24 saves, and Hunter, a choice of the players, are the only representatives of the Angels. The Rangers, battling the Angels for first place in the AL West, also have two All-Stars. Outfielder Josh Hamilton was voted to his second straight start, and the players awarded Michael Young his sixth consecutive All-Star berth. Previously chosen at shortstop, Young this time made it at third base after briefly balking at the position switch when it was first proposed during the offseason. "That means a lot," Young said of his latest All-Star honor. "Going back to the winter there was tons of uncertainty about how it would all play out. Once again it's an honor to be the players' selection. It's the ultimate honor. At the end of my career, I'm not going to look back at how many All-Star Games I went to but how I got there." Hunter had rallied in the fan balloting, losing out on the final starting spot to Hamilton by merely 48,000 votes. "I don't feel I personally deserve to go," said Hamilton, limited by an abdominal injury to 35 games and six homers and 24 RBIs -- fractions of his 21-95 first-half numbers of a year ago, "but at the same time the fans voted me in so I'm more than happy about that. It's a real honor for me to go for a second time around." The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game. Mauer's second straight All-Star start could turn into a personal showcase for the young (26) two-time batting champ who took a .390 average into Sunday's game against the Tigers. With Martinez the only other catcher on his bench, Maddon may have to keep him in reserve and keep Mauer in the game. Having Martinez in the lineup would leave the AL without a catcher for an emergency. The AL quintet of 2009 Final Vote candidates does include one occasional catcher -- Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge, who has caught in roughly a third of his 1,071 career games. Mauer's game-starting batterymate could be Halladay, a hidden baseball treasure who has had a checkered history in his past five All-Star selections. Twice, Halladay had to bow out due to injury. He worked in relief in the other three games, allowing seven hits and four runs in four innings. A start would be nice recognition for the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner, who has already reached double figures in wins for the fifth straight season, and for the seventh time in the past eight years. "If it did come up to start, it'd be a tremendous honor," said Halladay, who appears to be on a pitching schedule that would enable him to go on July 14 on regular rest. "It plays out into a regular five-day thing, which makes pitching less of a concern than in the past." Longoria's start punctuates his meteoric rise in the baseball universe. A year ago, he wasn't even on the All-Star ballot, but did get to Yankee Stadium as the fans' AL winner of the Final Vote. Now, he gave Jeter a good fight for the distinction of being the league's overall leading vote-getter. "The All-Star Game is an amazing feeling," Longoria said. "It's obviously the best of the best in your business."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.