When it comes time to play the All-Star Game a week from Tuesday in Phoenix, will anyone in a Mariner uniform take part?
Well, despite the fact that Seattle had two men named to the American League team Sunday pitchers Felix Hernandez and Brandon League were selected with 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki bypassed it’s likely the Mariners representation could be in name only.
Hernandez is currently scheduled to start the last game before the All-Star break, July 10 against the Angels in Anaheim. In recent years it has become standard practice for managers in this case Texas skipper Ron Washington to skip any starter on the roster who pitches the Sunday before the game.
The rule is one that Hernandez scoffs at, but its there to keep pitchers from hurting themselves by pitching on unusually short rest. And Seattle manager Eric Wedge said the club still plans to have Hernandez pitch that Sunday when the first half ends.
As for League, his wife, Sasha, is expecting the couples third child any day now. The due date is July 13, one day after the All-Star Game. And while League said Sunday that doctors are now saying “it could be any day now, theres at least a chance that League will be called away to higher duties.
That storyline will play itself out over the course of the next week or so. Sunday, the Mariners were happy that two of their pitchers had been selected to represent the team. But they were also dealing with the fact that Ichiro was off the team for the first time in a decade. And there was more than a little puzzlement that Michael Pineda, who has seven wins and a team-best 2.65 ERA, also was skipped.
“Maybe he can go out there and pitch for me, said Hernandez in a light moment while talking about the omission of Pineda. This is Hernandezs second selection to the All-Star team, having pitched a scoreless inning in 2009.
He is coming off a Cy Young Award winning season in 2010, when, curiously enough, he was not an All-Star. With two starts left before the break hes 8-7 with a 3.35 ERA. A year ago at the break he was 7-5 with a 2.88 ERA and didnt get picked, which demonstrates the power of seeing your name on the list of Cy Young Award winners.
After all, those numbers are almost identical to Pinedas 2011.
“I havent pitched as consistently (as last year), Hernandez said. “Im close (to being at the level he wants), but I havent had the consistency I want.
League was supposed to be the setup man in Seattle this year, but when David Aardsma needed off-season surgery, the idea was for League to take over for a few weeks. A few weeks have evolved into a few months, and League has been up to the challenge. Save for a four-game-stretch in early May, League has been almost untouchable. With a save on behalf of rookie Blake Beavan on Sunday in a 3-1 win over the Padres, League has reeled off 13 consecutive saves and has not allowed an earned run in his last 17.2 innings, getting his once bulky ERA down to 3.38.
He leads the AL with 22 saves and said that while he was extremely excited to be selected as an All-Star, his focus has been elsewhere.
“I cant say I didnt think about it, League said. “but Ive got other things on my mind right now. We went to the hospital two nights ago and the doctor said, `any day.
League has saved 22 of 25 chances after having gone 6-for-12 in save opportunities as a setup man a year ago.
“Ive always wanted to be a closer, ever since I became a bullpen guy, League said. “It wouldnt have been possible if Wedgie hadnt given me the opportunity to close.
As for Ichiro, who had two hits and scored two runs Sunday while pushing his batting average up to .272, he declined to talk about his All-Star status. Before this year, he was voted into the game by the fans nine times in 10 years and the 10th year (2005) he was picked as a backup.
The season has been difficult on Ichiro, who is enjoying playing for a competitive (41-43) team but who is also saddled with the understanding that if he wasnt almost 50 points under his career batting average (.331 at seasons start), the Mariners would be over .500 at a minimum and possibly close to or in first place.
Wedge didnt talk specifically about any of his players who were passed up in the All-Star selection process, but of Ichiro he said, “hes had a great career.
“Hes working hard to find whats missing, Wedge said. “Hes still trying to fight through it.
Though Beavan didnt learn until Saturday that hed be starting for the Mariners Sunday, he had time to get his wife and his parents on planes from the Dallas-Fort Worth area so they could see his debut. It was worth the flight.
Beavan, a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder, threw seven innings in which he allowed just three hits and one run. Ichiro scored a run in the first inning on an Adam Kennedy single, then scored again in the third on a Justin Smoak sacrifice fly, a run that put Seattle up 2-1. The games final run scored moments later on a Dustin Ackley sacrifice fly, and that was enough for Beavan, who retired seven of the final eight men he faced.
“It was awesome, Beavan said. “I didnt shake off (catcher) Josh Bard once. I just tried to hit the mitt and let him call the pitches.