ST. PETERSBURG — Driving to Tropicana Field on Sunday morning, James Shields was fairly confident he would be named to the American League team for next week's All-Star Game. David Price had heard enough chatter in the past few days to have a pretty good sense he would be joining him.
But Matt Joyce? "Wasn't even on my mind," the Tampa native said. Instead, Joyce was deep in thought working out the details to spend the All-Star break with fiancee Randi Jones at a buddy's beachfront condo, maybe snagging an invite for an afternoon on teammate John Jaso's boat.
But Joyce has other plans now, elected to make his first All-Star appearance since his days in the North Brandon Little League.
"I'm so pumped," Joyce said. "This is probably the most exciting news I've heard in a really long time. It's unbelievable. A great feeling."
The Rays were feeling pretty good overall Sunday with three players named to the team: Shields and Joyce voted in by the players; Price selected by AL/Texas manager Ron Washington.
"That's pretty impressive," manager Joe Maddon said. "All three make sense; all three are deserving."
This is the fourth consecutive year the Rays have had at least three players selected, and they could have more company in Phoenix for the July 12 game. Infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist is on the five-man "Final Vote" online ballot for the 34th roster spot, and Maddon believes closer Kyle Farnsworth has a good chance to be added as a replacement.
Shields has been among the AL's best all season, bouncing back from an admittedly disappointing 2010 season (13-15, 5.18), and seemed likely to be rewarded with his first major-league All-Star appearance. But he was still touched when he got the official word from Maddon that he was elected by the players, the fifth and final starter voted in, ahead of New York's CC Sabathia.
"It's a humble moment for me," Shields said. "I'm feeling very grateful."
His satisfaction was measured in several ways, especially given his daily walk to the trainer's room where the 26 jerseys of the previous Rays All-Stars are mounted. "Every single day," Shields said. "And I never saw my name up there, so it's definitely one of the things I wanted to do is put my jersey up on that wall."
Shields' only regret is that he won't be eligible to pitch, given that he will start Sunday's final game before the break at New York, and will be replaced on the active roster. "I'm a little disappointed," he said. "I would have loved to be able to pitch in the game, but that's just the way it's going right now."
Price is in line to pitch in relief, and Washington was already talking Sunday how "powerful" it is that "he can come in and get any hitter out from either side." Price's selection will likely force the Rays to shuffle their postbreak rotation plans, which apparently had Shields and Price starting the first two games against Boston then the last two vs. the Yankees.
Price, who started last year's All-Star Game after a 12-4, 2.42 first half, was gratified by the selection, saying it validates his view that he is pitching better this season even though his numbers aren't as good (8-6, 3.43).
"I felt like maybe some people noticed that, and that's awesome," he said. "For the most part, I feel like I've thrown the ball pretty well."
Joyce, though, was by far the most excited, especially since he'd pretty much given up on the idea of making it when he was leading the majors in hitting at .370 on June 1 and wasn't among the top 15 in the first voting update.
"I got kinda taken aback, and had to wonder, man, what do I have to do to get there and make the All-Star team," he said.
Though the fans didn't show much support, as he finished 11th in the voting (with 1.6 million), Joyce was fourth on the players ballot, ahead of elected starter Josh Hamilton, and said he felt "even more" honored to be chosen by his peers, especially for his first such honor at any pro level.
The first of his many calls Sunday morning was to his father, Matt, with whom he used to watch All-Star Games and home run derbies on TV and who was instrumental in his development and is by far his biggest fan.
"I just told him, 'Get your bags packed; if you want to come with me to Arizona, you're more than welcome to,' " Joyce said. "He was obviously excited. He said congrats. And he definitely wants to come, of course. I think he's starting to drive right now."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.