After calling four players into his office individually to inform them they had been selected to play in next Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced the news to his entire team before the Orioles took batting practice Monday night at Target Field.
Three players were expected to head to Cincinnati. Third baseman Manny Machado, closer Zach Britton and center fielder Adam Jones all made strong cases during the first half to represent the American League, but set-up man Darren O’Day was the surprise selection, making his first All-Star Game.
It wasn’t that O’Day wasn’t worthy, going 5-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 31 2/3 innings in the first half, but he was deserving in previous years and went unselected.
“To be honest, there have been a few years when I had good numbers, good enough to go, and it’s just hard for a middle reliever to get picked,” O’Day said. “It was [the] kind of thing where you start to stop hoping. … You just don’t know if it’s going to happen. So when they called me into the office and told me, I was just shocked.”
This marks the fourth consecutive year the Orioles have sent at least three players to the All-Star Game, and their most since sending five players to the 2013 game at Citi Field in New York.
“It’s cool because when I first got here, we only had one guy for the first three or four years,” said Jones, who was selected for his fourth straight All-Star Game and his fifth overall. “Now, the last four years we’ve had multiples so that means that the league is starting to respect us. Players see that we have some good talent on this team now and we play the game right. We play it hard.”
Showalter kept the news of the selections secret until he announced it to the entire club before Monday's game against the Minnesota Twins.
“Our guys look at it as a team thing organizationally, but its great recognition, especially how they got picked, by the players and by the manager,” Showalter said.
“I’m a person who has thrived on challenges, people saying I can’t do this, I can’t do that,” O’Day said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play in the postseason a couple of times. I was always curious what the All-Star Game was about and I take pride in my performance and what I do out there. …
“This is my eighth year in the league and I’ve heard about my teammates going. Out of all the experiences they keep saying to take it all in and meet as many people as you can because you might not have another chance, so I’m excited to do that.”
Britton, who entered spring training in 2014 without a definitive role, is another first-time selection, also picked by Yost. Britton is second in the AL in saves, converting 23 of his 24 opportunities, including 19 straight.
“It’s pretty exciting. Me and [pitching coach] Dave [Wallace] and [bullpen coach] Dom [Chiti] were talking about how a couple offseasons ago we were in California in the offseason getting to know each other and trying to figure out what my role was going to be,” Britton said. “To look at where we are now and go into an All-Star Game, it’s pretty special. It’s something I’m definitely not going to take it for granted.”
Machado, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Monday, was named to the All-Star game for the second time in his career, selected by player vote. He also was selected as a reserve in 2013.
Coming off two seasons that ended with knee surgeries, Machado is tied for the team lead in homers with 18 — he led off Monday’s game with a solo blast — and his 46 RBIs are second. He led the AL with 42 hits in June, was second in batting average (.365) and fourth in RBIs (22).
“It’s been a great year,” Machado said. “I’m just blessed to be healthy and being out there, being able to perform every day. I think that’s the biggest key. There was a lot of rumors and things going around about my knees that I wasn’t going to be able to be the same player or anything but I’ve got two brand-new knees and I just need to be back on the field and play. I just wanted to be back out there and have fun. I think that’s the only thing you can take away from this — go out there and enjoy yourself.”
Like Machado, Jones was also selected by player vote.
“I’m truly humbled that the players selected me,” said Jones, who entered Monday with a .286 average with 10 homers and 38 RBIs. “I don’t play for accolades except the ring and it’s humbling that the players around the league see that I play every day and I play hard every day, and they see what I mean to this team and what the team means to me. So that part is quite humbling because, like I said, I just come out and play the game. … I just do it for my teammates and the name across my chest, so it’s humbling that the players around the league they see that.”
Jones, who missed nine games last month with a right shoulder injury said he hasn’t decided whether he will play in the All-Star Game or use the time off to rest his body from a variety of nagging injuries.
“It could be a good time to let my body heal but at the same time, it’s the All-Star Game,” Jones said. When asked if it is a difficult decision, Jones said, “No, not really.”
After not getting any players elected to start in the All-Star Game by the fan voting process, the Orioles took almost more pride in being selected by players and Yost.
“I think the way we got in, not necessarily overwhelming the fan vote, people like the way we play,” O’Day said. “They enjoy watching us play, they respect us as opponents, and I think that shows and quality of baseball has really picked up here. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been really competitive, and it’s a fun environment to be in and a pleasure to come to work every day.”