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All-Star notes and observations (Jones, Tillman, Rivera, Weiner)

NEW YORK -- In his second at-bat in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones doubled against Cliff Lee. It was his first hit in four All-Star at-bats spanning three games.

Afterward, Jones wanted to talk more about his first at-bat, in which he struck out on a 98-mph fastball from the New York MetsMatt Harvey.

“That was my best at-bat of the year,” he told me afterward.

Jones was down 1-2 in the count, fouled off a pitch, took a ball, fouled off two more, took another pitch to get to a full count, fouled off another nasty slider before swinging through Harvey’s heat.

He didn’t realize he saw 10 pitches until after the game. But he said he just felt comfortable at the plate – and really has the past week or so. In the club’s final series of the first half against the Toronto Blue Jays, Jones was 6-for-9 with three homers, 6 RBIs, 3 walks and one strikeout.

If he can consistently work the count like he did Tuesday against Harvey, it could be a real strong second half for Jones.

Chris Tillman is one of the more genuine, down-to-earth guys I’ve covered in the past decade or so. Therefore, two things from the All-Star Week didn’t surprise me at all. On Tuesday afternoon all the players were led in a motorcade around Manhattan. Tillman told me afterward that he couldn’t have been much more uncomfortable. He said he considered switching with the driver so he didn’t have to be the center of attention.

After Tuesday’s night’s game, I asked Tillman if he was disappointed that he didn’t pitch. He immediately said, ‘No’ three times straight. Tillman was thrilled to be at the game, to be with his teammates, to locker next to Justin Verlander and to sign autographs for the other players.

Much has been made of Manny Machado’s earnestness in being in the big leagues. But I’m not sure anyone is enjoying this 2013 ride as much as Tillman.

I wrote a blog yesterday about J.J. Hardy beating out a potential double play in the All-Star Game, and I jokingly wrote that we should forget about Mariano Rivera’s touching tribute Tuesday and focus instead on Hardy’s speed. Well, I guess my tongue was not planted firmly enough in my cheek.
I actually had people rip me for disrespecting Rivera and rip Hardy for not being in the same baseball stratosphere as the New York Yankees’ closer. Well, as the kids used to say, "Duh."

I’m sometimes amazed by how some readers don’t actually read the copy before reacting. But apparently some don’t. So I’ll type this next paragraph real slowly.
Mariano Rivera may be the player I respect most in all of baseball. He’s always given me time when I’ve needed it. He’s always been exceptionally respectful. And he’s absolutely tremendous at his job -- perhaps the best at his particular assignment than anyone in their specific roles in baseball history. Nobody deserves the accolades more than Rivera, and it was wonderful to witness the tremendous moment in the eighth at Citi Field. I was on a tight deadline and I stopped to take it all in. Incredible. 

That’s one to tell my grandkids about. (Right after I explain to them how fast Hardy was Tuesday night.)

One more note about a classy individual. Baseball union chief Michael Weiner spoke to the baseball writers’ association Tuesday afternoon. He began his talk by detailing his battle with brain cancer. He spoke to us from a wheelchair.

Weiner’s prognosis is exceptionally sobering, but he spoke to us candidly and without a trace of self-sorrow. He then tackled all of our questions about the Biogenesis scandal.

It was typical Weiner. Unlike the man he followed, Donald Fehr, Weiner has never seemed bothered by answering reporters’ questions. He wants us to get things right, so he’s always been exceptionally thorough in his explanations without ever being combative – which was a Fehr calling card.

It’s tough to get baseball writers to agree about anything, but when the session with Weiner was over, we all rose and gave Weiner a standing ovation. I’ve always been impressed by the man – but on Tuesday that professional admiration took on a personal note.

Here’s hoping one of the sport’s good guys can beat a really imposing foe.

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