The Texas Rangers will have at least three players at this year’s All-Star Game.
Closer Joe Nathan, starter Yu Darvish and outfielder Nelson Cruz were all selected for the Midsummer Classic on July 16 at Citi Field. Reliever Tanner Scheppers has a chance to make his first All-Star Game, too, as he’s one of five players vying for the final spot on the American League roster through a fan vote.
The Rangers didn’t have a position player voted in as a starter by the fans for the first time since 2007, but a former Ranger garnered the most votes of any player this year. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who came up through the Rangers system, was selected as a starter and had 8,272,243 votes, about 200,000 more than the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera.
In another local angle, TCU product and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter was selected as a reserve on the NL team.
Nathan was the only “lock” manager Ron Washington felt the Rangers had. At 38, Nathan is in the midst of arguably his best season. He has a 1.43 ERA and 28 saves, the most before the All-Star break in team history and his personal best.
“Tremendous, almost perfect,” Washington said of Nathan’s first half. “He hasn’t let us down one time when he’s taken that mound. He finds a way.
“He’s gone from power to finesse. He can spin it, he can change it, he can move the fastball around the zone. This year, he’s been top-notch.”
With the selection, Nathan becomes a six-time All-Star and said earlier this week that going would have extra meaning for him this year. Nathan grew up in the New York area and followed the Mets as a youngster.
“Anytime you get to go to these, it’s an honor,” Nathan said. “Even though it is the sixth time now, it’s still going back to New York, which always means something, too, going back to my hometown.”
Darvish earned his second straight selection after being voted in by the fans last season. After Saturday’s loss, he is 8-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 18 starts and leads the majors with 157 strikeouts. His .190 opponents’ batting average going into Saturday ranked as second lowest in the majors.
“I’m really grateful,”said Darvish, who is the first player in franchise history to go to the event in his first two big-league seasons. “Players who face me recognize what kind of pitcher I am. I’m so honored to be selected by the players.”
Cruz is going back for a second time after he was an All-Star in 2009.
Cruz has been a pivotal piece for the Rangers all season. He is batting .274 with 22 home runs and 66 RBIs. The 66 RBIs and 22 homers are the most by an AL outfielder. He also ranks among the leaders in slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage.
“He’s got so many huge hits for us,” Washington said. “Through all the turmoil we’ve been going through, all the personnel changes, all the injuries, he’s been the one constant. We’ve certainly needed it, and he’s a big reason why we are where we are.”
Cruz was excited about his selection and proud to share the moment with his family, which is in town visiting.
“It’s nice to give that news in person, which is always better than doing it on the phone,” Cruz said. “I guess it’s more special because in New York, I have my family there, a lot of friends; so it’s going to be really nice.”
As far as the Home Run Derby, Cruz said he’s unsure if he’ll participate. He finished second in the contest in 2009 and said it will all depend on how his body feels at the time.
“If I feel like my body is rested, I will,” Cruz said. “If I feel like I need rest, I won’t.”
Scheppers has a chance to go to his first All-Star Game in the “Final Vote,” which is how Darvish reached it last year. Scheppers has emerged as the Rangers’ primary setup reliever, posting a 1.88 ERA over 42 appearances.
He is among five relievers on the ballot. The others include former Rangers relievers Joaquin Benoit (Detroit) and Koji Uehara (Boston), as well as Steve Delabar (Toronto) and David Robertson (New York Yankees).
“It’d be a dream come true,” Scheppers said. “Something I dreamed of since I was a kid, playing in that game with the best players in the game. So I hope I get that opportunity.”
Nathan is happy to see Scheppers on the ballot, although admitted it could be an uphill battle with the team on the road next week.
“We may need some help on the Twitters and all that other social media stuff,” Nathan said. “Maybe we can get Yu Darvish to give him a shout out over in Japan. Either way, honor for all five of those guys on that list, obviously deserving if they go or not.”