Three Phillies named to All-Star team
Hamels, Rowand to join NL starting second baseman Utley
PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Rowand figured he'd be spending the All-Star break relaxing at his Las Vegas home, where temperatures are expected to reach 110 degrees that week. Pool time was scheduled -- likely with his daughter, Tatum, and son, McKay -- and a few rounds of golf.Cole Hamels had a similar itinerary, except without the pool and in an Eastern location. Recovering from a busy first half ranked high on his priority list. Chase Utley didn't make alternate plans, and really, how could he? When you're the leading vote-getter among National League second basemen since the first online ballots were counted, hearing it from your manager on the day that All-Star squads are announced isn't going to floor you. "Of course, I'm excited to go, but I'm more excited for those two," Utley said. "I'll try to slow it down a little bit this year and take it in more. Maybe I can show them around." The other two Phillies All-Stars were pretty excited, too, as the trio will represent the NL in the 78th All-Star Game on July 10 in San Francisco. The 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 8 p.m. ET. 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. Hamels' first nod came in his first full season, while Rowand's came in his seventh season. "I actually planned on sitting at the sports book at the Red Rock Casino in Vegas watching the Home Run Derby," Rowand said. "But I'll get to sit there on the field now. I'm looking forward to it. I never expected to make an All-Star team, never got my hopes up for it. To be able to be a part of it is a blessing." NL manager Tony La Russa changed Rowand's vacation plans when he personally selected the center fielder. Though Rowand never made a dent in the fan vote, his selection is well deserved. The pending free agent has been the right-handed glue in the lineup, batting everywhere except fourth, eighth and ninth. Lately, he's settled into the No. 5 hole as protection for Ryan Howard. "He deserves every bit of it," said Devil Rays pitcher James Shields, Rowand's cousin. "He's probably one of the hardest working guys in baseball." Overall, Rowand is hitting .312 and has played in all 82 games. If it seems like Rowand has come through with many big hits, it's because he has. The righty has a .400 average with runners in scoring position. "It was a real surprise," Rowand said. "There are a lot of good outfielders in the National League, and a lot of guys who have been to All-Star Games a lot of different times." Hamels' selection came as a result of his peers. He earned a spot via the players' ballot,likely by those fooled by his devastating changeup. More than one hitter has grumbled that they can't hit the pitch even when they know it's coming. The lefty finished third behind Jake Peavy and Brad Penny.
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 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.
"It's great, because you have their respect," said Hamels, who said he filled his players' ballot with starting pitchers. "They understand what I'm capable of doing and to be able to succeed and frustrate them. ... They frustrate me enough, too."Despite a 6.92 ERA over his past three outings, Hamels has quickly developed into one of the league's best starters, reeled off nine wins to go with an 3.87 ERA. The Phillies are 11-6 in his starts. Never short on confidence, the 23-year-old made no secret regarding his expectation about making an All-Star team, regardless of his 40 career starts. In his first full season, Hamels has emerged as the team's ace and is responsible for some of the season's best pitching performances. Twice, he's struck out more than 10 batters in a game, including a 15-strikeout, complete-game gem in Cincinnati. "That's always the goal I set forth at the beginning of the season," said Hamels, who still didn't expect to hear the news. "I was in the middle of working out. [Media relations manager] Greg [Casterioto] brought me into the office. Aaron and I had no clue what it was all about. Then they mentioned Chase's name. ... It's going to be great. Guys I've talked to say it's the highest high, so I'll have to take it in." Hamels has long felt that that he's the best pitcher in any room on any day, and such brashness should be interpreted as supreme confidence rather than cockiness. After losing a perfect game and a no-hit bid in the seventh inning in a May 16 game against Milwaukee, Hamels wasn't fazed. "There will be other chances," he said. In Spring Training, with 23 Major League starts under his belt at the time, Hamels spoke of regular 20-win seasons and annual no-hitters, things any red-blooded pitcher hopes for. Even though he's part of the youngest starting infield in All-Star history -- along with Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and New York's David Wright and Jose Reyes -- Utley is the seasoned veteran among the Phillies All-Stars, and he'll have to explain the protocol to Rowand and Hamels. A two-time All-Star, Utley went 1-for-2 in last year's Midsummer Classic at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and he returned with plenty of souvenirs for teammates. Utley's announcement came as a formality, as his 2,112,142 votes easily outdistanced second-place finisher Rickie Weeks, who made a late charge. Utley led the voting in every week that the totals were released. Howard won't be a member of the NL squad, unless one of the four first basemen backs out. He was invited to defend his Home Run Derby title, and he said he'll likely make a decision by Monday. A slow start to Howard's MVP encore season hurt his candidacy, as he hit .204 through May 9, when he went on the disabled list. "You can't be there every year, boys," Howard said. Since returning from the DL, Howard has hit .281 in 35 games, with 13 homers and nearly an RBI a game. Overall, he's batting .250 with 19 homers and 57 RBIs -- on pace for roughly 38 homers and more than 114 RBIs. He's the first reigning MVP to not attend the next season's All-Star Game since Baltimore's Miguel Tejada won the AL MVP Award in 2002 and wasn't an All-Star in '03. Still, this is a day for Utley and first-timers Rowand and Hamels. "It's neat to be a part of it, and I'm going to have a great time," Rowand said. "Everybody wants to make the All-Star team, and to get to do that is awesome. Look at what we get to do every day. This is a pretty fun job."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.