Every team has its guy — a fringe candidate it believes should be recognized as an All-Star.
For the Rays, it's Kyle Farnsworth, the journeyman reliever manager Joe Maddon refuses to call his closer, even though he entered the weekend 15 of 16 in save situations. Maddon says the job description is "relief pitcher extraordinaire.''
The guy for the Giants is 33-year-old Ryan Vogelsong. He opened the season at Triple-A Fresno but has outpitched Tim Lincecum since taking Barry Zito's spot in the rotation. He's 5-1 and will take a 1.86 earned-run average with him Tuesday at Wrigley Field when he tries for his 10th consecutive start holding an opponent to two runs or fewer. That would tie Juan Marichal's franchise record.
Ryan, are you ready to be an All-Star?
"That would be amazing, especially with the path I've been on,'' Vogelsong told the San Francisco Chronicle. "An All-Star team at the major league level never has been close to a chance for me. I don't think I've ever made an all-star game in pro ball."
Projecting All-Star picks is ridiculously difficult. There's a laundry list of considerations that go into making up the 34-man rosters, including votes by fans and players as well as the requirement that each of the 30 franchises has a representative.
With a week to go before teams are named for the July 12 game in Phoenix, there are probably twice as many players deserving of consideration as there are jerseys for them to wear. Here are some things to keep in mind:
•It helps to be a Yankee or Red Sox. If the deserving Jacoby Ellsbury makes up his deficit on the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the third outfield spot, Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista would be alone in keeping the American League's starting lineup from being all Yankees and Red Sox. Neither Derek Jeter nor catcher Russell Martin of the Yankees deserves to be on the team, let alone starting, but they have gotten the fan support. No big deal, at least with Jeter. He has earned his bows.
•This is a tough year to make the team as a starting pitcher, especially in the AL. A quick look shows at least 18 deserving choices for a maximum of 10 spots (although extra pitchers will be named to replace guys scheduled to work next Sunday, including Justin Verlander). Surprising candidates such as the White Sox's Phil Humber (7-3, 2.90), the Rays' James Shields (7-4, 2.40, 1122/3 innings pitched) and the Rangers' Alexi Ogando (7-2, 2.66) could have a hard time cracking a staff with the likes of Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86) at least somewhat on the bubble.
•This might be an even tougher year to make the team as an NL reliever. Players will vote three onto the team and manager Bruce Bochy will add at least another two. But there are more than a dozen having All-Star years. If players elect Brian Wilson, Huston Street and Joel Hanrahan (20-for-20 in save chances for the Pirates), many others with 20-plus saves will sit home disappointed. Deserving setup men such as Jonny Venters, Mike Adams and Tyler Clippard are likely to get overlooked.
•The teams most likely to need a player forced onto the team are the Twins, Cubs, Marlins, Padres, Orioles, Royals and Mariners.
•Ichiro Suzuki, an All-Star in his first 10 seasons with the Mariners, will miss the game for the first time.
He entered the weekend on pace for 186 hits, putting his 10-year, 200-hit streak in jeopardy. Hernandez or rookie Miguel Pineda could earn spots through player voting, but both are better choices if the Mariners don't have a player elected.
Ready and willing: It was owner Jeffrey Loria, not team President David Samson or general manager Larry Beinfest, who suggested the Marlins take a run at talking 80-year-old Jack McKeon out of retirement.
"We never thought he'd say yes," Samson said. "He was happy."
McKeon was on the Marlins' payroll as a special assistant. When he got the call from Samson and Beinfest, he was in North Carolina preparing to watch his teenage daughter, Presley, pitch for her travel softball team. He said yes without consulting his wife or his agent.
"I'm not a greedy person," McKeon said. "I can't be a jerk and hold them up, even though maybe you have the leverage."
The last word: "I know there are a lot of baseball purists out there who love the pitchers hitting, but, 'Oh, my gosh.'" — Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach on National League-style play.
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