Another year, another All-Star nod for Ichiro
Suzuki makes eighth start in Midsummer Classic in nine years
BOSTON -- Make it nine-for-nine for Ichiro Suzuki.The Mariners' right fielder will be spending the All-Star break this year exactly the same way as the previous eight seasons -- playing in the Midsummer Classic.
The 35-year-old hit machine, who started the season on the 15-day disabled list and missed the first eight games, more than made up for lost time and was named on Sunday as one of the American League's starting outfielders for the July 14 All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.The rosters for both leagues were announced on Sunday during the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Pepsi. Joining Ichiro on the team is ace right-hander Felix Hernandez, and manager Don Wakamatsu will be in St. Louis as well, having been selected as a coach by AL and Rays manager Joe Maddon. This will be the eighth time Ichiro has started the All-Star Game, which determines which league has the home-field advantage during the World Series, and it's the first appearance for Hernandez. "I'm really happy," Hernandez said after the Mariners' 8-4 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. "It has always been a goal, to make the All-Star team. It's great." Hernandez, who will take his entire family -- including his parents -- to the game, earned his first trip to the Midsummer Classic with a string of superb outings that started on May 24, when he held the Giants to one run over eight innings. He won his fifth game of the season that night and has rattled off seven consecutive stellar starts since then, improving his record to 8-3 with a 2.62 ERA. Hernandez and Ichiro were informed of their selections during a brief team meeting called by Wakamatsu. "We're proud of them, but I told these guys that it's awfully important that they thank their teammates for the support they gave them," Wakamatsu said. "I think there were a couple of other players on this club that deserved a chance to be on that [team]." Those would be right-handed closer David Aardsma and first baseman Russell Branyan. "It would have been nice to make it, but I'll just take the three days off, rest up and be ready to go [after the break]," said Aardsma, who is 17-for-18 in save opportunities and ranks among the league leaders with a 1.47 ERA. "I'm happy for Felix. He has pitched lights-out, and I'm proud of him." Ichiro finished second to Red Sox left-fielder Jason Bay in the record-breaking fan voting process this year, leaving 2005 as the only year Ichiro was not among the top three vote-getters. That year, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, both of them then with the Red Sox, and the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero were the starters. Ichiro, who went 1-for-2 in the 2005 Classic, played at Detroit's Comerica Park, is 7-for-21 with one home run and four RBIs in All-Star play. Hit at AT&T Park in San Francisco in '07, the home run was the first inside-the-parker in All-Star history. He went 3-for-3 in that game and was the overwhelming choice as the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player. The consistency Ichiro has demonstrated this season ranks among the best of his career. His longest hitting "drought" is one game, and he's been held hitless just six times through the first half of the season. He's had two hitting streaks that lasted at least 10 games, including a career-best 27-game streak in May. He had little to say about his latest All-Star Game selection. "It's kind of tough for me to do this interview," Suzuki said after the loss to Boston. "It has been a long trip and we didn't find out about it until right before the game, so I haven't had a chance to think about it." With nine consecutive All-Star Game selections, Ichiro moves within one of Ken Griffey Jr.'s club record. Griffey, who returned to the Mariners this season after playing for the Reds and White Sox the past 10 seasons, was selected to the team for 10 consecutive seasons starting in 1999. Branyan, who already has matched his single-season high with 20 home runs thus far, said that he didn't know what to expect as far as being selected for the first time. "It was hard to pay attention to every single player that was doing well," Branyan said. "It would have been pretty cool to get a chance to go, but maybe some other year." Branyan would be receptive to competing in the Home Run Derby. "If they invited me, I would go in a heartbeat," he said. "I would go to St. Louis and hit a few if they want me to."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.