MIAMI — Having five players on last year's American League All-Star squad was considered a crowning moment for the previously downtrodden Rays franchise.
But this year's show in Anaheim actually could be more impressive.
Last year, 3B Evan Longoria was voted by the fans to start (but couldn't play due to a finger issue), and SS Jason Bartlett and LF Carl Crawford were chosen by the players. The other two were named by Rays/All-Star manager Joe Maddon — INF/OF Ben Zobrist to an open spot, 1B Carlos Peña as a late injury replacement.
And not that there's anything wrong with that — "A spoils-go-to-the-victor kind of thing," Maddon said. "I think every manager under the same circumstances would try to do the same thing." — but those choices can be viewed with an asterisk.
This year, four Rays appear to have fully earned their way west.
Longoria is going to be voted to start again (and in his hometown, no less) and will be the first Ray to actually do so, and Crawford will be elected by the fans (for the first time) or the players.
Deserving to join them, if not by the player vote then added by Yankees manager Joe Girardi (which means it might not be the lock it should be), are LHP David Price, who leads the league with 10 wins and a 2.31 ERA, and RHP Rafael Soriano, who is 16-for-17 in saves (third most) with a 1.52 ERA.
Even more interesting, Price — barring any rainouts or Maddon reversing plans to not skip any starters — happens to be on schedule to start the July 13 midsummer classic, set to pitch today, Saturday, July 2 and July 7.
"I wouldn't be opposed to that," Maddon said. "That would be great for him, and those are the kind of experiences that could really catapult somebody."
Price is already planning to be in the L.A. area to attend the day-after ESPY awards, "hooked up" by Longoria ("My connection for everything," he said). And if he were to happen to be working the night before, well, that would be okay, too.
"It would be cool to have that experience," Price said. "But I haven't really given too much thought to it. I just want to continue to have fun. … But that would be awesome."