Five Orioles made the All-Star Game last year in New York.
That won’t happen again July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
This year, the Orioles will have one All-Star for sure: Nelson Cruz, who is nearly 1 million votes ahead of the Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz in the voting for American League designated hitter.
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The Orioles should have at least one more -- center fielder Adam Jones is having another All-Star-type season. There’s a possibility if Jones makes a late run in the fan voting -- the teams will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPN -- that he could start in the AL outfield for the second consecutive year.
That will be up to Orioles fans and other voters throughout the country. Online balloting ends Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. on MLB.com and its 30 team sites.
The Orioles, technically, could have three starters selected because catcher Matt Wieters led the Oakland Athletics' Derek Norris by nearly 180,000 votes when the most recent tallies were announced Monday. But Wieters hasn’t played since May 10, is out for the season after elbow surgery and Norris closed the gap by more than 186,000 votes last week.
It would be a surprise if Norris doesn’t overtake Wieters in the final push.
It also would be somewhat surprising if Jones, who is currently fifth for outfielders, overtakes Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, whom he trails by 88,285, and the Toronto Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera, whom he trails by 76,238 votes. The top three outfielders start, and Toronto’s Jose Bautista and the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout are locks.
Cespedes, who is dealing with a minor hamstring injury, has a whole lot of momentum right now. He’s batting .273 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs for baseball’s best team, and two of his tremendous throws in June went viral. So he is probably the favorite for that third outfield starting spot in the AL.
What would be shocking is if Jones, who is batting .304 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs, gets passed over altogether. Jones, for his part, says he’s not worrying about it.
“It’s a cool event because you are looked at as one of the top players in your field, in your game,” he said. “It’s the All-Star Game, it’s the Midsummer Classic. But, at the same time, having time off from the game to get yourself mentally ready for the second half for your team is quite important as well. … Put up your numbers, and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, take your days off and relax.”
After the nine elected starters, 24 more players are added to the AL squad by manager John Farrell of Boston and the players’ vote.
Cespedes likely will claim one of those reserve outfield spots if he isn’t elected by the fans. The Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley also is deserving -- he could be the only Indians player selected, so you have to figure he will make the team.
After that, it’s tough to make a case for anyone else to be chosen over Jones. And that includes Cabrera, who started out blazing, but now trails Jones in most offensive categories. Houston Astros rookie George Springer has made a powerful impact, but the struggling Astros surely will be represented by second baseman Jose Altuve. Springer fits better as a “Final Vote” selection (five players will vie for the 34th spot for each league).
So my guess is Jones makes his fourth All-Star Game and third straight. And that only he and Cruz represent the Orioles. Right fielder Nick Markakis and shortstop J.J. Hardy have put up solid numbers, but not eye-popping enough for All-Star consideration. Steve Pearce hasn’t played enough.
The only pitchers who may get some consideration are relievers Darren O’Day and Zach Britton and starter Bud Norris.
O’Day has a sparkling 1.32 ERA in 35 games, but it is hard for a setup man to be selected. Norris is on the disabled list, costing him a couple chances to lower his solid 3.62 ERA and improve on his seven wins. So he’s most likely out, too.
And that leaves Britton, who is 3-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 35 games. He is 10 of 12 in save chances since taking over the closer’s role May 15. He has allowed 39 base runners and struck out 32 batters in 42 1/3 innings pitched. Those are numbers that are All-Star worthy.
The problem for Britton is that there are a whole lot of pitchers who have been closers all season and are putting up big numbers, such as the Seattle Mariners' Fernando Rodney, the Kansas City Royals' Greg Holland and the Minnesota Twins' Glen Perkins. You also have to figure that Farrell will take his closer, Koji Uehara, who also has been very good.
That doesn’t leave many more spots for relievers, if any. And guys like Oakland’s Sean Doolittle, New York’s David Robertson and Toronto’s Casey Janssen also have to be in the mix.
So Britton, despite the great year, probably won’t get a nod unless there are several injuries to selected players.
We’ll see on Sunday.