Red Sox feeling starry eyed
Teammates thrilled for first-time picks Beltre, Lester, Buchholz
BOSTON -- Unless Red Sox players are dumping celebratory champagne and beer all over one another in October or November it's unusual to see any kind of off-field emotion from them during the long and arduous season.
That's particularly the case with Boston playing in the American League East, which is considered one of the toughest divisions in the majors. Red Sox players try to keep a daily routine and attempt to keep everything in perspective.
When six members of the Red Sox arrived at Fenway Park on Sunday morning in preparation for the series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston manager Terry Francona had the honor of telling those players they had been selected to represent the organization and the American League at the upcoming All-Star Game on July 13 in Anaheim.
Because of all the adversity the Red Sox have faced this season, every player in the clubhouse had a sense of satisfaction for their teammates who will represent the club as David Ortiz, Adrian Beltre, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz all were selected by their peers on the players' ballot.
There's a chance a seventh Red Sox player will be named with Kevin Youkilis in the running for the final roster spot, which is decided by fan voting at mlb.com.
Despite a 6-1 loss to the Orioles, there was joy in Boston.
"I think it is well deserved by our guys," Francona said. "Those guys are very deserving and I hope Youk, I hope our fans find a way to get Youk on there too, because he's also deserving."
While Pedroia, Ortiz and Martinez have all been All-Stars in the past, it will be the first time for Buchholz, Lester and Beltre.
"Sometimes players may play it off a little bit, but I think they are all genuinely excited," Francona said. "I actually think the last few years, this era of players, there's so much respect for the game, I think it's a good thing for baseball. Our guys were genuinely excited and respectful and humbled by the honor."
In the weeks leading up to the All-Star selections Sunday afternoon, every player in the Red Sox clubhouse said they hoped Beltre was named to the team. This is his first season with Boston, but his 13th in the big leagues, so it's surprising this highly talented third baseman is an All-Star for the first time in his career.
"It feels good. It's my first one and hopefully it's good for me," Beltre said. "I want to see what it's like and hoping for a good experience. It means a lot. It's nice to have those three days off, but for me to be a first-timer I get to see what it's like and I'll take my family and we'll enjoy our time there."
The accolades for Beltre poured in from his teammates.
"If there's one guy in this clubhouse who should be part of the All-Star Game, it's Adrian," Ortiz said. "Adrian's been doing an unbelievable job for this ballclub and he deserves it. He earned it."
"Adrian is very deserving," Youkilis said. "It's a great thing to see Adrian on there."
Beltre's career seemed to be on shaky ground during the offseason. Some wondered if the 31-year-old free agent still had the ability to perform consistently and stay healthy. His agent, Scott Boras, decided it would be best to sign a one-year deal with a club in hopes of resurrecting his career and landing a big payday after this season.
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With the way Beltre is performing, that seems pretty likely.
He ranks third in the majors with a .341 average and is tied for the lead among AL third basemen with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs.
"My goal this year was to be healthy and help this team get to the playoffs and see how far we can go," he said. "After that, whatever else comes is extra, but I'm really excited to be in the All-Star Game."
The usually subdued Lester also showed emotion.
The left-handed ace of the Sox's staff was thrilled when he was told the news of his selection. The 26-year-old Lester has held opponents to an AL-best .204 average and has a 10-3 record with a 2.76 ERA.
"It's really exciting and something that hasn't sunk in yet. It probably won't until we get out there," Lester said. "It's really not a focus right now. My focus is the Blue Jays on Friday and to finish out the first half. But it's definitely an honor, and I'll do my best to represent the Red Sox."
What will make this event even more special for Lester is the fact he'll make the trip with friend and fellow hurler Buchholz.
"It'll be fun to experience it together and hopefully it's not the last one," Lester said.
Buchholz, 25, ranks second in the AL with a 2.45 ERA and also has 10 wins this season.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "There's been a lot of ups and downs getting to this point, and to be able to be named with the guys on this team is awesome. It's something you dream about growing up. I dreamed about just playing in the big leagues, much less making an All-Star team. I'm happy as can be."
Buchholz likely won't be pitching in the game, however, as he is expected to be placed on the disabled list with a nagging hamstring injury.
It was tough to tell whether the first-timers or the repeat customers were happier about the selections.
For the first-timers it meant they have had success in the first half of the season. For the All-Star veterans, it means they continue to succeed.
Ortiz is one of those guys.
As he struggled through a miserable April, a lot of people were doubting Ortiz's abilities and some thought he was at the end of his career. The Sox slugger used that as motivation and is having a big season, making the All-Star team for the sixth time, all as a member of the Red Sox.
"I really appreciate it, man," he said. "The players think about a guy like myself, I'm a guy who tries to respect everyone and play the game the way it's supposed to be played and I think when you get voted in by the players it's because pretty much everybody agrees with what you're doing, so I really appreciate it."
Ortiz's average is down a bit from his heyday, to .259, but he has 17 homers and 54 RBIs in 68 games this season.
"I wasn't really focusing on the All-Star Game," Ortiz said. "We have a lot of things going on around here right now. A lot of injuries and we're trying to win games and we're playing in a tough division as always. To tell you the truth, I really wasn't focusing on that. But the fans really get into this and it's an honor for me to get voted in and to be a part of it. I'll go there and try to put on a good show for the fans because they really appreciate what we do."
Martinez has been named to the AL All-Star team four times (three with the Indians) and this is the third time Pedroia has earned a spot on the club. Because both are on the DL, they will be unable to play.
The Sox second baseman was selected to play in the 2009 Midsummer Classic, but could not attend because of a family matter. Even though he can't play this season because of a fractured left foot, he said he's planning on attending.
"It's a great honor. I'm excited," Pedroia said. "The players voted me in and that's pretty cool, pretty special. It's a great experience and I missed it last year. Hopefully I can go and it'll be fun to hang out and see everybody."
As much as the entire Red Sox clubhouse was elated for the six members of the club to earn spots on the AL All-Star roster, the team has grander goals despite all the adversity and injuries.
"We have a really good team and we feel we have one of the best teams in baseball," Pedroia said. "If we play well enough and get healthy, we can try to win a championship, and hopefully that happens."
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.