Five Red Sox players tabbed All-Stars
Ortiz, Ramirez, Damon, Varitek, Clement bound for Motown
BOSTON -- When the American League's starting lineup is introduced before the All-Star Game at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, there will be a sea of Red Sox on the field.
In fact, the lineup that American League All-Star manager Terry Francona fills out that night won't be all that unlike the one he uses on a nightly basis. When the results were unveiled on Sunday, the Red Sox had four players selected to the All-Star team, and all four were voted in by the fans as starters.
Matt Clement will also represent the Sox in Detroit. The right-hander was named to the team on Saturday as an injury replacement for Toronto's Roy Halladay.
The defending World Series champions will have quite a showing in Motown, as designated hitter David Ortiz, center fielder Johnny Damon, left fielder Manny Ramirez and catcher Jason Varitek will be in the lineup.
"I think they'll be very honored. And the fact that we have four guys in the lineup, I think, will make them just that much more proud," said Francona. "I'm very proud for the guys that were voted."
This is the third time in Red Sox history they've had four members of the All-Star's starting nine. The only other times it happened were 1946 and '49.
"It's definitely an honor for myself, I know for the other guys too, Manny, David and Jason," said Damon. "I think we're going to represent the Red Sox and the American League very proudly. It helps when you play on an All-Star caliber team, a team that can get back to the playoffs and win a world championship. You're going to have some horses on your team and that's what we do have."
The top horse, in both clutch hits and this year's All-Star balloting, is Ortiz. Affectionately known as Big Papi, Ortiz was the leading overall vote-getter.
With 4,138,141 votes, the wildly popular Ortiz was the only player in Major League Baseball to top the four-million barrier.
"I think it's great that people recognize the job we do on the field," said Ortiz. "And I think I'm very happy and it just gets me going every day knowing that there are a lot of people behind us."
The left-handed masher is having another monster season. He is hitting .310 with 22 doubles, 19 homers and 68 RBIs.
Last year was the first time Ortiz had the honor of being an All-Star, and he celebrated by taking Carl Pavano deep in the American League's victory at Houston.
In recent years, the All-Star Game has had a decided Yankees feel to it. After all, the Yankees won six American League pennants from 1996-2003. But the Red Sox winning the World Series certainly seemed to help give this year's Midsummer Classic more of a Red Sox flavor.
"I think it's great, because I remember last year there was nothing but Yankees in the lineup," said Ortiz. "I think we'll be more comfortable this year. I think there's going to be a lot of Red Sox out there. We're going to feel like we're here, having the coaches and more players."
While Varitek, Ramirez and Ortiz led for the majority of the voting period, Damon needed a late surge to top Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki as the third outfielder on the squad.
"I think last year just kind of made me known a bit more, plus the playoff series that we had against the Yankees and Cardinals," said Damon. "I think that definitely helped my case."
What made the best case for Damon were his numbers. He leads the American League in hits (109), third in batting average (.341), second in runs (60), sixth in doubles (21), seventh in triples (five) and ninth in on-base percentage (.383). This is Damon's second career appearance on the All-Star team. In 2002, he was selected in the inaugural Final Vote ballot.
"It's a very big deal," said Damon. "It's something that, when you broke into the league, you'd be lucky if you got 100,000 votes, now you're pushing a million and a half. You have a strong fan base, playing for a huge market. I think it tells you kind of where you've come in your career. I've come a long ways. I've always been a pretty good player. These fans in Boston make me feel like a great one."
Ramirez has become a fixture at the All-Star team. This is the fifth time in his five years in Boston he's been voted in as a starter. Ramirez is an All-Star for the ninth time in his career, which is well deserved considering his yearly prowess at the plate.
Even with a slow start to this season, Ramirez still has 20 homers and 70 RBIs. Provided he stays healthy, Ramirez will top 100 RBIs for the eighth consecutive season.
Ramirez, who hasn't spoken to the media for most of the season, declined comment.
Varitek, the captain of the Red Sox, makes his second trip to the All-Star Game in three years. He didn't get to play in his first appearance, but his status as a starter will change that this time around.
"It will be nice to actually get into the game and play and enjoy it," said Varitek. "I'm just honored, really honored, that I have the opportunity."
The switch-hitter is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game. He is a sturdy force behind the plate, never giving way to oncoming baserunners and always spending plenty of preparation time poring over scouting reports.
Perhaps underrates is how good Varitek has become offensively. Through 241 at-bats, Varitek is hitting .307 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs.
"I think our team has some horses, guys that you can count on," said Damon. "With Jason, you have the best game caller, a guy who works incredibly hard."
The All-Star news wasn't all good for the Red Sox, however. Fifteen-year veteran Mike Timlin, who has a 1.58 ERA as Boston's ace setup man, was vying for his first All-Star appearance. And it took Halladay's injury to get Clement on the club.
"It crushed me," said Francona. "I'm not very happy about it. I don't expect you to understand everything. I spent so much time on this. The system is what it is, so you make your decisions according to that, but you're seeing a lot of good players that aren't going. And again, out of respect to everybody, I care. But out of respect to our guys, I probably care more."
The All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.