By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
3:40 PM PDT, July 2, 2011
When the 2011 American League All-Star team is revealed Sunday afternoon, the Orioles expect one trend to continue.
Even with perhaps more worthy All-Star candidates than in the past, a group that includes shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones and catcher Matt Wieters — three players who have been among the best at their position through the season's first half — the Orioles understand the reality. Last-place teams with low national profiles are probably only going to be represented by one player.
That has been the case for the Orioles in five consecutive All-Star games and in nine of the last 10 Mid-Summer Classics. The only exception was in 2005 when an Orioles team that led the American League East for a good chunk of the first half had four players in the game – infielders Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada, and closer B.J. Ryan.
"J.J. is having a really strong year at short. I don't see why we both can't get in, but obviously with the fan voting, and the market that we're in, we both know that sure as hell won't happen," said Jones, who represented the Orioles in the 2009 All-Star game, and drove in the go-ahead run for the American League. "I think he's very deserving of that. I know he missed a little stretch, but he came back and has been a great addition to our team. Of course, it would be nice to represent your team and your city. But when it comes down to things that aren't in my control, I just take a step back and let the people who are in control do it while I just go out there and play my game."
Jones, whose fallback plan if he doesn't get selected for the July 12 game is a couple of days in South Beach, entered tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves seventh among A.L. qualifying outfielders in batting average (.286) and fifth in homers (13) and RBIs (46). He's batting .304 with runners in scoring position, and has played a strong center field.
Hardy, who made the National League All-Star team in 2007 while with the Milwaukee Brewers, doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify among the leaders at his position because he missed a month with an oblique injury. If he did, he'd be second among A.L. shortstops in batting average (.299) and slugging percentage (.527), third in homers (11) and on-base percentage (.359) and fifth in RBIs (30).He's also made just one error this season.
"Honestly, in '07, I kind of felt like I was going to be an All-Star and it would have been more of a disappointment if I didn't make it that year. This year, I feel like if I don't make it, it's because I missed a full month and I'd understand," Hardy said. "It wouldn't be a disappointment. Obviously, it would be a huge honor to be able to say that I'm an All-Star in both leagues. That would be awesome. But I think Jonesy and Wiety, they're both very deserving of it, too. If one of those guys makes it, I'm all for it, more than me. "
Wieters' candidacy would revolve around his defense as he leads all Major League catchers in caught stealing (22) and in fielding percentage (.998), and is the only big league catcher with over 40 starts without a passed ball.
Several Orioles have also promoted relievers Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson, who have been among the top setup men in the league this year, for the game.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has already had one conversation with Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who will lead the A.L. squad, and he said that it wouldn't surprise him if he talked to his friend one more time before the team is selected.
"I'm biased," Showalter said. "I think there are five guys that are very worthy. Did I miss anybody?"
Reynolds would like opportunity
Mark Reynolds' batting practice exploits are well documented, so it's no surprise that his name has been floated as a potential participant in the home run derby as part of All-Star game festivities. The derby has a new format this season as captains have been selected — Boston's David Ortiz and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder — and given the authority to invite three members to join them for the competition.
The participants don't have to be All-Stars to take part in the home run derby. Reynolds said that he hasn't talked to the Red Sox slugger, but he'd be interested if Ortiz invited him.
"I'm trying to get Ortiz's number, I want to text him," said Reynolds, the former Arizona Diamondback who is planning to return to Arizona for the All-Star break anyway. "Especially going back to Arizona, I'm going to be there anyway. Oh yeah, I would definitely do it."
Reynolds currently leads the Orioles with 15 homers. Some managers don't like their players competing in the derby because it could mess with their swing, but Showalter has no such concern with Reynolds.
"I don't know how much it would change Mark's swing, do you?," Showalter said. "No, I'm all right with it."
Around the horn
Starter Zach Britton has been dealing with some stomach issues the past couple of days, but he remains on schedule to start Sunday's series finale. Chris Jakubauskas will start Monday's series opener against the Texas Rangers, and Jeremy Guthrie will go on Thursday, but the club still hasn't decided on Tuesday's starter … Brian Roberts (concussion) got through some light baseball activities today and he could start hitting in a couple of days if he continues to feel good … Starter Justin Duchscherer, who remains shut down with left hip soreness, is scheduled to see team orthopedist Dr. John Wilckens on July 11 … Infielder Cesar Izturis (elbow surgery) got through his first day of baseball activities without any problems … Outfielder Nolan Reimold remained on the bench for a second consecutive game with Luke Scott getting the start in left field … Starter Jeremy Guthrie spent some time before the game with former Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who provides commentary on the Braves' pre- and post-game shows … Third-round pick Mike Wright made his professional debut Friday and pitched a perfect inning for the Gulf Coast Orioles.
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