Ichiro, Putz selected for All-Star Game
It's seventh appearance for OF, first for Mariners closer
SEATTLE -- After watching several All-Star Games on television, Mariners closer J.J. Putz finally gets to see one in person."I don't think it's going to sink in until I actually get there and get around the festivities," the right-hander said Sunday afternoon after being selected to his first Midsummer Classic. "That's what guys who have been there have told me. They also said it's going to be something I'll never forget. I am looking forward to it." While Putz will represent the Mariners for the first time, center fielder Ichiro Suzuki made it 7-for-7 in his MLB career -- landing a starting spot in the American League outfield for the sixth time. Ichiro, who leads the Major Leagues in hits, finished third among AL outfielders with more than two million votes. "This is my seventh year as an All-Star consecutively and when I played in Japan, I played in seven consecutive All-Star Games, as well," he said. "So it has been a goal of mine to do the same here, and to be able to accomplish that makes me very happy." The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT. 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.
The Mariners are in Oakland prior to the three-day All-Star break, but stay at a hotel on the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge. Putz and Ichiro don't have far to go, and won't even have to change hotel rooms.But J.J. had a long way to go to get where he is today. He went three weeks of the regular season before getting his first save opportunity, but since then has reeled off 23 consecutive saves through Sunday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays. He has surrendered one earned run all season, set a franchise record with 11 saves in June and been summoned from the bullpen seven times in the eighth inning, succeeding each time. Opposing hitters are batting .107 (9-for-84) against him in save situations, he has retired the side in order 10 times in save situations and his 26:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio is out of this world.
"I wouldn't be in this position without the guys pitching in front of me doing their job all year long," Putz said. "There have been days I've been out there when I wasn't perfect and they turned double plays. But it's a great honor to be selected."He currently ranks third in the AL in saves, one behind Joe Borowski (Indians) and Francisco Rodriguez (Angels). "I have tried not to think too much about [being selected] until it happened," Putz said. And now that he has been selected, Putz said he would be taking "my whole family", which includes his wife, twin daughters, mom, dad and brother. I think some of my wife's family will be driving up from Southern California." Asked what he was most looking forward to during his two days in San Francisco, Putz said, "The entire thing. Sitting on the field during the Home Run Derby is something that's going to be pretty cool. The gala they have afterwards is going to be pretty neat. "But just being around the best of the best is something that I'm going to soak in, I can promise you that." The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
Ichiro, meanwhile, is rapidly making his way to another season of at least 200 hits, adding to his record for most consecutive 200-hit seasons to begin a Major League career. The hit-happy left-handed hitter had a so-so April -- batting .305 -- but turned it on in early May and has been torrid ever since.He started May with three consecutive hitless games, went 0-for-4 against the Yankees on May 5, and then embarked on a club-record 25-game hitting streak. In fact, Ichiro has at least one hit in 47 of his last 50 games and his .365 batting average is second in the Major Leagues to Detroit's Magglio Ordonez (.370). "It never gets old hat," he said of being selected. "It is something very exciting for me."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.