SEATTLE -- Mariners ace Felix Hernandez and closer Brandon League were named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday, as announced on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell.
Hernandez's selection is not a big surprise, given he won last year's AL Cy Young Award and continues to be one of the top pitchers in baseball.
The news was a little more of a surprise for League, though he shares the AL lead for saves with Mariano Rivera of the Yankees. Five closers were named to the AL team and while League is happy to be included, he acknowledged that it wasn't the first thing on his mind over the weekend.
"Even though the All-Star selection is a big deal, my wife is pregnant and we're due any day now. So I've got that going for me," League said with a grin. "We went to the hospital [on Saturday night], but it was a false start. So it could be any day now."
League, awaiting his third child, won't have to wait much longer for his first All-Star bid. The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT.
ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Hernandez earned his second All-Star selection, having also made the team in 2009. The 25-year-old won the AL Cy Young Award last season without making the All-Star team. This time Hernandez earned an All-Star bid, but he likely won't be able to pitch in the Midsummer Classic since he's scheduled to start for the Mariners next Sunday, two days before the All-Star Game.
By MLB rules, as soon as any starter throws a pitch on Sunday, they become ineligible to be used in the All-Star Game and must be replaced. Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that Hernandez would remain on schedule for Sunday in Anaheim.
Hernandez jokingly noted that he could still easily throw an inning on Tuesday, given that would be his normal bullpen day. But barring unlikely weather problems in Oakland or Anaheim this week, he seems destined to be bumped out of the actual game while still being allowed to take part in the festivities.
Tampa Bay's James Shields and Detroit's Justin Verlander are also scheduled to pitch on Sunday. When those pitchers are taken out of the game, the AL will need replacements, and it's conceivable that could open a spot for Mariners rookie Michael Pineda, who is 7-5 with a 2.65 ERA.
Hernandez was among those raising their eyebrows over Pineda's non-selection.
"I'm a little surprised," Hernandez said. "He's got pretty good numbers. I don't know. Maybe he can go there and pitch for me if I can't pitch."
Also not selected was right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who saw his run of 10 straight All-Star selections come to an end. Ichiro had the longest active streak in the Majors, having been voted into the All-Star game nine of his first 10 years in Seattle and being named as a reserve in '05 when he wasn't voted in by the fans.
Ichiro, 37, is hitting .268, with an on-base percentage of .313 and slugging percentage of .327, all well below his career averages of .331/.376/.430.
"He's had a heck of a run," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Ichiro has had a great career. He's worked hard this year to find it, to get back to being as productive as he's been in the past. He's still fighting that fight.
"He comes to the ballpark each and every day and prepares like he prepares, and that's all you can do. He's been better here the last 2-3 weeks, and hopefully he can be more consistent in the second half for us."
League, 28, took over as the Mariners closer this season for the injured David Aardsma, and has been perfect outside of a four-game blip in mid-May when he lost four straight games. Prior to that, he racked up nine straight saves and since then he's gone 12-for-12 in save opportunities while not allowing an earned run in 18 straight appearances.
"That was a tough week, but I did what I could to get back on the horse and not look back," he said. "I'm definitely throwing all my pitches now, whereas that week I relied too much on my fastball. Now I'm mixing in splits and sliders a lot."
League, 0-4 with a 3.48 ERA, has 27 strikeouts and five walks in 33 2/3 innings. The Hawaiian native came into the season with just eight saves in seven Major League seasons, having worked primarily as a setup man in Toronto from 2004-09 and then Seattle last year after being acquired in a trade for right-hander Brandon Morrow.
Hernandez has followed up on last year's Cy Young season with an 8-7 start an a 3.35 ERA. He ranks third in the AL in innings pitched with 129 and strikeouts with 124, and again is the ace of a Mariners staff that has kept Seattle in contention in the AL West.
Hernandez pitched in the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, but didn't get selected for the game last year when he went on to win his first Cy Young.
Fans, having already decided the starters, this week will have the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 7. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Std rates may apply.
On July 12, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.