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Rays Tales: Starry-eyed

Three Rays were on the field for the start of last year's All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif.: Carl Crawford was in left, Evan Longoria at third and David Price on the mound throwing the first pitch.

Next week in Phoenix, there likely won't even be three Rays in the building — and maybe none in the game.

No Rays have been anywhere near the top in the fan voting — not even Longoria, the elected starter in 2009-10 — and RHP James Shields appears to be the only Ray assured of being named when the 33-man American League roster is revealed today.

Other Rays possibilities, in order of their chances, seem to be RHP Kyle Farnsworth, 2B/RF Ben Zobrist, OF Matt Joyce, Price and 1B Casey Kotchman.

If Shields ends up flying solo, it will be the first time since the Devil Rays days of 2007 there has been just one representative (Crawford).

Worse, Shields likely isn't going to get to pitch. He's scheduled to start the final game before the All-Star break, next Sunday in New York, and under a 2010 rule, pitchers who do so are still honored as All-Stars and can participate in all activities but will be replaced (once they make that Sunday start) on the active roster, and the replacement doesn't have to come from their team. Shields would still count as the Rays' representative.

Here's a look at their chances:

James Shields

For: His eight wins are fourth most in the AL, his 2.45 ERA fifth best, his 127 Ks second most, his three shutouts tops and his six complete games lead the majors. His overall body of work is good enough that if he's not voted in by the players, he has to be appointed by AL manager Ron Washington of the Rangers.

Against: Really, there is no reason for him not to make it. And the scheduled July 10 start can't be held against him, as Detroit's Justin Verlander, New York's CC Sabathia and Seattle's Felix Hernandez are in the same situation.

Kyle Farnsworth

For: He's tied for 7th in saves (16 of 18) and 5th in save pct. (88.9), has the second lowest ERA (2.20) of full-time AL closers, has — most remarkably — walked only two of the 125 batters he has faced, and Joe Maddon (who wasn't consulted by Washington) has been calling him an All-Star, though not the closer.

Against: Farnsworth is having a very good season, especially for a guy that hasn't had much chance to close before. But there are 4-5 others, led by Mariano Rivera, likely to be elected/selected ahead of him. And it'll be interesting to see how much support he gets in the players' vote.

Ben Zobrist

For: Leads the majors in doubles (27), is tied for 4th in extra-base hits (40) and is so versatile — able to play any position, and is a switch-hitter — that he could truly help win an All-Star Game.

Against: Isn't hitting for much average (.266) or homers (9), and if Washington wants that kind of player, he could take his own Michael Young. Zobrist could end up on the extra-man ballot for the 34th spot.

Matt Joyce

For: A little more than a month ago was leading the majors in hitting at .377, still ranks in AL's top 10 at .307 and also with a .904 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages), and was getting all kinds of pub as one of the season's biggest surprises.

Against: Has hit less than .200 since late May, isn't in the top 20 in homers (11) or RBIs (40) and his own team — for whatever reason — stopped playing him every day.

David Price

For: Is in the top 10 in wins (8), strikeouts (116), innings (118) and WHIP (1.05, walks + hits per inning), brings fearsome stuff and star quality, and there could be four openings for replaced starters.

Against: Not in the top 20 in ERA (3.43), overall pedestrian record of 8-6, and being ejected twice for arguing calls isn't going to help.

Casey Kotchman

For: His .333 average would be 3rd best in MLB if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboard (20 shy), plays flawless defense, cool comeback story after opening year in minors.

Against: Just too deep a position to crack, what with Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Konerko and Mark Teixeira.

Previous Rays All-Stars

1998: RHP Rolando Arrojo

1999: DH Jose Canseco*+, RHP Roberto Hernandez

2000: 1B Fred McGriff

2001: OF/DH Greg Vaughn+

2002: OF Randy Winn

2003: RHP Lance Carter+

2004: OF Carl Crawford

2005: RHP Danys Baez+

2006: LHP Scott Kazmir

2007: OF Carl Crawford

2008: LHP Scott Kazmir, 3B Evan Longoria, C Dioner Navarro

2009: SS Jason Bartlett, OF Carl Crawford, 3B Evan Longoria*+, 1B Carlos Peña, INF/OF Ben Zobrist

2010: OF Carl Crawford*, 3B Evan Longoria*, LHP David Price^, RHP Rafael Soriano

* elected starter; + did not play; ^ named starter

All-Star rumblings

3B Evan Longoria was looking forward to making his fourth straight All-Star team, but a monthlong injury absence and subpar first half make it extremely unlikely. He is going to Phoenix anyway, hosting a Sunday night "black-carpet … dress to impress" event, Evan Longoria's All-Star Jam, that benefits the Phoenix Children's Hospital. … B.J. Upton's brother, D'backs OF Justin, has some official All-Star hosting duties and should make the NL team, but B.J. plans to stay in Tampa and rest during the break. … If RHP James Shields is the lone Rays rep and ineligible to play, it would be the second time that has happened: 2001 All-Star OF Greg Vaughn was injured at the time. … Two other times, the lone Rays didn't get into the game: RHP Lance Carter in 2003, RHP Danys Baez in 2005.

Rays rumblings

Ex-Ray and Hall of Famer Wade Boggs played a Louisiana deputy sheriff in Swamp Shark, a Syfy network movie that debuted June 25, telling his character was "sort of a cross between Walking Tall and Barney Fife," and he prepped by channeling former Yankees great (and true Cajun) Ron Guidry. Boggs will be in an upcoming episode of the USA Network series Psych. … Continuing the Hollywood theme, always interesting Charlie Sheen raved — sort of — about OF Matt Joyce to Sports Illustrated: "Matt Joyce destroyed a ball in Tampa! Who the (expletive) is Matt Joyce? There is an incoming wave of talent that is just unbelievable." … If there's an outfielder promoted from Triple A soon, it might be Brandon Guyer (.317-10-44) rather than Desmond Jennings (.273-10-34). … The New Yorker's July 4 edition has a six-page feature on OF Sam Fuld. … SI's Tom Verducci has Joe Maddon as the top AL manager in his midseason awards, RHP Jeremy Hellickson second among rookies and Joyce 10th as MVP but doesn't have RHP James Shields in his Cy Young top 3.

Got a minute? J.P. Howell

Must-see TV? Lately it's been The Wonder Years, I've been stuck on those.

Band you'd most like to be on stage with? Dave Matthews.

Big-night-out meal? Since the gout (diagnosis), I've got to go chicken and white wine.

Ideal vacation spot? Bora Bora, hands down. Went there for our honeymoon.

With your wife Heather's permission, dream date? Her in her next life — that's it.

Rays Tales: Starry-eyed 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 9:05pm]
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