OAKLAND -- Major League Baseball released its first update today on fan voting for the All-Star Game, and the A’s are well-represented among the top vote-getters -- none more so than Josh Donaldson, who leads all A.L. third basemen in votes.
Donaldson, of course, was left off the All-Star roster last season despite a strong first half and went on to finish fourth in league MVP voting. He’s batting .276 this year and leads A.L. third basemen in home runs (12) and RBIs (38). He currently has a nearly 60,000-vote lead over the Rays’ Evan Longoria, with the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre third and the Orioles’ Manny Machado fourth.
"That’s terrific," manager Bob Melvin said. "Rightly so. He should be first in the voting. But it’s taken us a little while to get some recognition."
Depending on where you look, Donaldson has not just been the best third baseman in the league this year -- he has been arguably the league’s best player. Baseball-reference.com has Donaldson leading the league in Wins Above Replacement (3.9, with the Angels’ Mike Trout second at 3.1), and lists Donaldson as having the A.L.’s best offensive (2.5) and defensive (1.5) WAR.
Still, that Donaldson is actually getting the votes is noteworthy. The A’s haven’t had a position player make the All-Star team since catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003, and as Melvin said, it seems even in successful years that the A’s are often viewed more as the sum of their parts.
"For him to be in that position means that nationally we’re getting noticed a little more as a team, and we do have some really good players here," Melvin said. "We’re not just the little engine that could. We really have some good players here."
Donaldson said he tries "not to think about awards or anything like that," but that he does believe several A’s garnering some votes is an indication people outside the Bay Area are taking note of their individual performances. Derek Norris is third among catchers, while Brandon Moss is fifth among designated hitters -- despite the fact Moss regularly plays in the field -- and Yoenis Cespedes is ninth among A.L. outfielders.
"I think what’s going to end up happening is a guy on this team’s going to make the All-Star team, a position player," Donaldson said. "And it’s going to open doors for other people to get recognized on our team.
"We have good players. It just has to get out there."
Donaldson said Moss, who is batting .289 with 12 homers and is tied for the second-most RBIs in the A.L. with 42, is "deserving just as much as I am" for an All-Star nod. There’s also, of course, the A’s top three starting pitchers, who would all seem to have a case for consideration (pitching spots are not voted on by fans).
"But everybody knows about our pitching," Donaldson said. "So I’m not going to talk about them. We need to get a position player in the All-Star Game."
They’re off to a promising start.
Tonight’s game between the A’s and Tigers, meanwhile, offers one of the marquee pitching matchups of the early season, with league ERA leader Sonny Gray opposing the reigning Cy Young Award winner in Detroit’s Max Scherzer. Here’s the A’s lineup that will face Scherzer:
And the Tigers’ lineup against Gray:
DH Victor Martinez
LF J.D. Martinez
* Reliever Ryan Cook (DL -- right forearm strain) threw a 22-pitch bullpen today using all his pitches, with Melvin saying Cook threw his slider "as hard as he could throw it" and looked "like he had never missed a beat." Cook said he "was thoroughly surprised with how good it was today, actually."
The next step is a longer bullpen on Thursday, with Cook saying he’ll probably warm up, sit down, then throw an inning to some stand-in hitters. Melvin said the A’s will go from there to determine whether Cook needs a short rehab stint or, potentially, just a simulated game before rejoining the A’s.
* Infielder Nick Punto (calf) will likely be available off the bench tonight, Melvin said. Catcher John Jaso (back) is in the lineup after missing the last several games. Reliever Eric O’Flaherty is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Thursday, as the left-hander continues his return from Tommy John surgery.