The Orioles have not represented themselves particularly well of late, but at least they'll be well-represented at the All-Star Game.
Center fielder Adam Jones, closer Jim Johnson and catcher Matt Wieters have been chosen by their peers to play in next week's Midsummer Classic at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. It's the first time since 2005 that the Orioles have placed more than one player on the American League squad, and they might even put one more on the team before the All-Star rosters are finalized.
Pitcher Jason Hammel remains in play as one of the five American League bubble guys with a chance to be elected by the fans in the "Final Vote" internet poll on MLB.com. The results will be announced Thursday at 4 p.m.
Whether the Orioles end up with three All-Stars or four, the players who got the good news this weekend each said they view the multiple selections as a sign of the progress that the organization has made under Buck Showalter and baseball operations chief Dan Duquette.
"It's pretty cool,'' said Jones, who also represented the O's at the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis. "For the last seven years, it's been one player. You have to win to get more than one player nowadays. It's an accomplishment to our team and it's good for three, possibly four, Hammel, being voted in. Representing the Baltimore Orioles, it's a tremendous accomplishment for us as a team, also."
Wieters was selected for the second straight year, becoming the first Orioles player to be chosen in back-to-back seasons since Miguel Tejada in 2005 and '06. He was not a lock to go as a reserve because Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has the better offensive numbers, but Wieters has quickly gained widespread respect from his fellow major leaguers for his cannon arm, his productive bat (11 homers, 38 RBIs) and tough-but-likeable demeanor.
The first time was special, but Wieters said that the second time will be sweet because he'll be going in such good company.
"Last year, it was great to go to the All-Star Game," he said, "[but] to see the other teams have two, three, four, five guys there, it makes it even more fun that you get to share something with your teammates that you're battling the whole year with, and to have a good time out there."
Johnson is an All-Star for the first time, but he probably was the most obvious choice. He has been one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball this year, converting 23 of 24 save opportunities and winning the only game in which he blew a save. His ERA through 34 appearances is a miniscule 1.30 and he is one of the major reasons for the club's success this year. Just ask the guy who has been at the other end of his nasty stuff for almost every one of those games.
"You can look at any of the great closers in the game, and you can put Jim's first half up there with anyone,'' Wieters said. "I'll take Jim's over everybody, and I'll take Jim over other closers. It's something where the first time was great for me. It was just last year, and I'm looking forward to the second time, but I know he's going to have a great time to just experience everything. It's something where you don't sleep much when you're out there. It's a good thing because there are a lot of things you want to experience."
Jones is on the way to his finest season. He entered Sunday's game batting .300 with 19 home runs, and drove in his 42nd run of the year with an RBI single Sunday. He is gaining in national stature and popularity with each passing year, but finished fifth in the fan voting for the three outfield slots. His fellow players, however, could not overlook his strong offensive numbers and terrific all-around performance.
Still, Jones chose to focus on what this year's big All-Star entourage says about the team.
"That's a large number,'' Jones said during a pre-game news conference. "You usually see Boston or New York or Anaheim with four, but the men that are sitting here on this stage are four deserving men. We've put in the work. We battled. We obviously have a lot to go. It's going to be an exciting second half here. There are other guys in the locker room that are very deserving, also. Our bullpen, if I could I'd take all of them. They've been outstanding for us. It's hard to just say there are only four that are deserving. It's a team effort. There's no way any of us could get here without each of the 25 guys, including the coaches."
Hammel will just have to wait until Thursday to see if he can win the Final Vote. The ballot also includes Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish, Royals pitcher Jonathan Broxton, Angels pitcher Ernesto Frieri and White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy.
"Obviously it's a tremendous honor just to be in the final vote,'' he said. "You put in a lot of work. It's not just myself. It's a collective effort. I couldn't have done this without Matty and Jimmy closing out games, Jones running down balls. Everybody on this team has done something to help us get up here. It would be a nice personal accomplishment, but you still need the team to get to this point."