Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) tags out Cleveland Indians third baseman Carlos Santana (41) in the 4th inning during the home opener at O.co Coliseum Monday March 31, 2014 in Oakland, Calif.

A’s have six players named to A.L. All-Star team, most since 1975

Published: Sunday, Jul. 6, 2014 - 9:44 pm
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 7, 2014 - 5:38 am

OAKLAND -- After it was announced Sunday that the A's had six players selected to the American League team for this year's All-Star Game -- their largest contingent since they had seven in 1975 -- all six were brought to the interview room at the O.co Coliseum and lined up behind a table with four microphones. Seated on the end and looking down at the five players to his left, Brandon Moss made an admirable attempt to define the group that will represent the A's in Minneapolis on July 15.

"You've got quite a few guys that have taken pretty interesting paths," Moss said. "We got a guy that came from Cuba. We got a guy that was pitching for the (independent Sugar Land) Skeeters a few years ago. We got a guy that was a hitter and now he's our closer.

"We've all taken pretty interesting paths to have this opportunity, and I think we're all the more thankful for it. Nothing in this group is taken for granted. Nothing is promised."

The A's as a franchise know that all too well. Prior to Sunday, they hadn't had a position player named to the All-Star Game since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003. They hadn't had a player elected by the fans since Jason Giambi in 2000. They hadn't had more than one non-pitcher named an All-Star since 1992.

All those droughts ended Sunday. Josh Donaldson was named the starting third baseman for the A.L. team by virtue of fan voting. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Moss and catcher Derek Norris were also named to the team, along with starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and closer Sean Doolittle. The six invites are the most of any team.

"It's really cool. We were hoping for something like this," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who informed several of the honorees individually and the others at a team meeting prior to their 4-2 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday. "We couldn't be any happier."

In his summary, Moss covered Cespedes (the guy from Cuba), Kazmir (who was pitching in independent ball two years ago) and Doolittle (the first baseman-turned-pitcher). Moss, meanwhile, was toiling in the minors several years ago after a failed stint in Pittsburgh. Donaldson was a minor-league catcher at that point who moved to third base to fill a need created by Scott Sizemore's injuries. Norris has played most of the season in a platoon, at times sharing catching duties with two other players, which limits his at-bats.

And yet all are headed for their first All-Star Game with the exception of Kazmir, who represented Tampa Bay in 2006 and 2008. Jeff Samardzija, whom the A's acquired over the weekend via trade, was also named to the National League team after posting a 2.87 ERA in 17 starts this year with the Chicago Cubs, though he will be ineligible to pitch in the game.

Samardzija, who allowed one run in seven strong innings in his A's debut Sunday, was later asked if the baseball world is taking note of what's going in Oakland, where the A's have the best record in baseball (55-33) but have seemed to go overlooked in past seasons compared to teams further east and south.

"They'd better," Samardzija said. "Or else they're not very smart. Six guys going to the All-Star Game, I think that says something."

The representatives, with a brief reaction:

• Donaldson, widely considered one of the most deserving players left off the A.L. roster last year, received over a million fan votes more than second-place Adrian Beltre to earn the starting nod at third base. He entered Sunday's game third in the league with 58 runs, sixth with 62 RBIs and tied for sixth with 19 home runs.

"This is great just to be represented by so many guys on this team," Donaldson said. "I feel like it's very deserving, so a pretty special moment for every one of us. I've been saying this for years, that we've had guys on this team that are very talented and that eventually you're going to see the hard work that we've put in pay off. And I think you've seen that by our record over the past few years."

Donaldson has also emerged as one of the top defensive third basemen in baseball in the past two seasons -- remarkable given his recent move from behind the plate -- and began Sunday tied for fourth in the majors in Wins Above Replacement, according to the site baseball-reference.com. He was also second in defensive WAR, behind only Atlanta's outfielder Jason Heyward.

• Cespedes participated in All-Star Weekend last year, winning the Home Run Derby in a memorable display of power, but this is his first invitation to the game itself. Cespedes is batting .262 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs, both third-highest on the A's, although perhaps his most eye-catching moments this season have come in the field. His 10 outfield assists are tied for most in the majors, and his did-you-see-that throw from the left-field corner to home plate in Anaheim to nab Howie Kendrick last month made national headlines.

Cespedes said it's "something" to be named to his first All-Star team, while unofficially confirming that he'll defend his title in the Home Run Derby. Donaldson said he too has been contacted about potentially competing in the Derby, and that he would "love to do it if I get the opportunity."

"There's a couple things that are still being ironed out," Donaldson said. "It's not 100 percent for myself. I think (Cespedes) is 100 percent."

• Doolittle started this season as a set-up man in the A's bullpen and has since taken over the closer role, recording his 13th save on Sunday. Doolittle has weathered a couple rocky stretches this season but still has a 2.98 ERA and an eye-popping strikeout-to-walk ratio of 61-to-2.

"A guy that comes out of the bullpen in games that are close, sometimes you want to be a little more fine," Melvin said. "But he comes right after you. ... The numbers, you don't see numbers like that too often."

Doolittle, whose conversion from position player to pitcher due to injury has been well-documented, said his selection was "surreal" -- and that he almost missed it when Melvin announced it during the team meeting. Doolittle said he was in the weight room warming up, and when he tried to get back into the clubhouse, the doors were locked.

"The order (Melvin) did them in, I was the last one that he named, or else I might have missed that part, too," Doolittle said. "I'm glad somebody finally opened the door."

• If not for Doolittle's career path to his All-Star selection this year, Kazmir's might be the most fit for a movie script. A first-time All Star at the age of 22 in 2006, the lefty was out of affiliated baseball altogether in 2012 after dealing with injuries and flaming out in Los Angeles. He returned a different pitcher -- no longer reliant on a mid-90s fastball and curveball, now varying four pitches to great effect -- and is 10-3 this season with a 2.53 ERA for the A's, who signed him to a two-year deal over the offseason.

"It shows you how far he's come in a short period of time," Melvin said. "A testament to his work ethic, to his desire, to his belief in himself to work his way all the way back."

For Kazmir, who has struck out 99 hitters and walked just 26 in 110 1/3 first-half innings, his experience the past few years lent a perspective that he didn't have for his first two All-Star trips with the Rays.

"Looking at it now, I feel like this is the most special All-Star (selection) for me yet, just because of the path that I went through the past couple years," Kazmir said. "But as a whole, I feel like this is going to be so much more special ... just because of how many guys (from the A's) were elected."

• Moss was perhaps the A's unlikeliest selection, by virtue of the fact he does not have a set position and shuttles between two areas -- first base and the outfield -- where the A.L. features numerous players with impressive numbers. But Moss is tied with Donaldson for the A's lead in both homers (19) and RBIs (62) and is batting .272 while a fixture in the middle of the A's lineup.

"Brandon Moss, we were all hoping for that," Melvin said. "We had a feeling about Cespedes, Norris. But Brandon Moss definitely deserves it."

Moss, who played really only one full season in the majors before age 28 with the Pirates in 2009 and struggled, has flourished as a power hitter with the A's, slugging 30 homers last season after hitting 21 in 84 games in 2012. His versatility on defense has allowed Melvin to keep him in the lineup more against left-handers, and he has responded with an .889 OPS, second on the team only to Norris.

"It's an opportunity I never thought I would have," Moss said. "I had an opportunity to play early on in my career and didn't do anything with it. And you fight just to get back, just to be anything. And then lo and behold, you find an opportunity, and something like this happens. It's kind of surreal. It's hard to grasp."

• Norris began the season in a strict platoon at catcher but has made a loud case for more at-bats, hitting .306 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in just 183 at-bats in the first half. Despite the limited playing time, he finished second in fan voting at catcher behind the Orioles' Matt Wieters. Wieters is injured and will miss the All-Star Game, but it has been announced the Royals' Salvador Perez will start in Wieters' place.

"He's made the most of his opportunities," Melvin said. "To have the numbers in a little bit more than half the at-bats shows a lot about the production that he's put up.

"It's neat we're able to get some guys that weren't looked at as everyday players going into the season."

It was neat, too, for Melvin to hold the meeting before Sunday's game announcing the six players selected. In recent years, that meeting would have involved the manager reading one name, maybe two, and none he would have written into that day's starting lineup. On Sunday, though, the names kept coming, one after another.

"We had a really good time with it," Melvin said. "The guys were very supportive. It got us in, I think, a better mood going on the field today.

"To be able to sit there for a while and not just call one name was neat. Proud of all these guys, and everyone who's on the team deserves to be on the team."

• Tomorrow's print story is all about Samardzija's A's debut. He was excited to make it -- he arrived at the field at 8:15 a.m., he said -- and the A's were excited by the result.

One quote here from Samardzija, on what it's like to join a contender mid-season:

"You don't want to mess it up," he said. "They didn't need me here. They were doing just fine without me. I don't want to come in and change anything, change the atmosphere. I just want to come in and add, do my part.

"The fact that they wanted me and came and got me when they were already in first place and the situation they're in, I'll take it. I'm excited."

Samardzija was also asked about not being able to pitch in his first All-Star Game due to the trade and said it's "a bummer, but that's all right.

"I'll just go through whatever ceremonies they have, then jump over to the A.L. dugout with an N.L. jersey on and have some fun with the six other dudes we have out there."

• Moss had an MRI on his testy left ankle before the game, which Melvin said came back "clean"

"No structural problems there, which is a relief," Melvin said. "Chance he could maybe DH tomorrow, we'll see how he does as far as on-field stuff."

Moss said the ankle hurt while running Saturday, but that he ran Sunday without pain and is hopeful to be cleared for Monday's Bay Bridge series opener against the Giants.

• With the 4-2 win over the Blue Jays, the A's recorded their eighth series sweep of the season, rebounding nicely from being swept in Detroit. That, along with the All-Star stuff and Samardzija making his debut, contributed to a heady atmosphere in Oakland.

"There's a lot of really good positive energy floating around in here," Doolittle said.

• One last note -- Jason Hammel, the other pitcher acquired in the Samardzija deal with the Cubs, was scheduled to arrive in Oakland on Sunday night. He'll likely be with the team Monday for the opener against the Giants. The Bay Bridge pitching probables:

Monday: RHP Jesse Chavez (6-5, 3.23) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (5-5, 3.86)

Tuesday: RHP Sonny Gray (8-3, 3.08) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (9-6, 3.09)

Wednesday: TBA vs. RHP Matt Cain (1-7, 4.27)

Thursday: LHP Scott Kazmir (10-3, 2.53) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (7-5, 2.53)

The first two games of the series are in Oakland, the latter two in San Francisco. All are night games except the finale, a 12:45 p.m. start. It's a 7:05 p.m. first pitch tomorrow.


Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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