On banner day for star-spangled O's, four players invited to All-Star Game

Tejada, Roberts will start

Ryan, Mora also selected, marking most since 1999

July 04, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

The smiles were mostly suppressed, the effect of a five-run loss to the Cleveland Indians that knocked the spirit of the Orioles down a notch. Hours earlier, however, when manager Lee Mazzilli announced the team's All-Star selections behind closed clubhouse doors, the Orioles reveled in the spoils of success.

Having already clinched their first above-.500 first half since 1997, the Orioles were rewarded with four All-Star invitations, including second baseman Brian Roberts and shortstop Miguel Tejada, who were voted in as American League starters for the game at Comerica Park in Detroit on July 12.

Orioles closer B.J. Ryan and third baseman Melvin Mora were also selected to the team in voting through players, coaches and managers, giving the club more than one playing representative for the first time since 1999. That year was also the last time the Orioles sent four players to the midsummer classic.

"That's tremendous," Mazzilli said. "I was real proud of my guys. It says a lot for Baltimore. We're going to be represented well."

Roberts, who along with Ryan will be making his first All-Star Game appearance, will team with Tejada to become just the third AL double-play combination from one team to start the game since fan balloting began in 1970.

"It's going to be exciting," said Tejada, 29, who will be playing in his third All-Star Game but is starting for the first time. "We're going to keep the same things the way we do in the season. We're going to enjoy every moment because we don't know when it's going to happen again."

The selections prove just how much things have changed for the organization in a span of a year. At this time last season, the Orioles were nine games under .500 and 15 games out of first place in the AL East. Even with yesterday's 9-4 loss, the Orioles' record stands at 44-37, good for second place, 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox.

Tejada was the lone Orioles selection last year, but he didn't even rank among the top three shortstops in fan voting despite having 75 RBIs at the All-Star break. This year, he finished more than a million votes ahead of one of the game's most popular players, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who wasn't selected to this year's All-Star squad. Jeter is one of five players eligible for the AL roster spot, which will be filled by an Internet vote.

Roberts had just recently established himself as the team's starting second baseman. A year later, the diminutive, 27-year-old second baseman, who entered yesterday as the AL leader in batting average and on-base percentage and was second in slugging percentage, beat out the Texas Rangers' perennial All-Star Alfonso Soriano to garner a starting spot.

"I am looking forward to it," Roberts said. "As a player, to be on the field with the best of the best, it certainly has to rank up there."

Ryan, formerly a set-up man who has 18 saves and a 1.67 ERA in his first full year as a closer, and Mora were also among the best at their positions at this time last year, but they were not selected for last year's game.

"Last year, I should have been there, so this is better," said Mora, 33, who returned to the Orioles' lineup yesterday after missing 10 games because of a strained hamstring. He was the Orioles' lone All-Star in 2003. "It's pretty special for us. I think I am going to enjoy it more this year because we have four guys."

Ryan got more votes on the player ballot than any reliever in the AL, including Mariano Rivera.

"He's the best, and when you get mentioned with guys like that, it does make you feel good inside," said Ryan, 29. "You owe a lot to the team for putting me in this situation. To get four guys, it's really a big attribute to this team. It shows how well we've played."

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was the leading vote getter for the AL and one of four starters on Boston, marking the most starters from one team since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds had five, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Rangers' Mark Teixeira, a Severna Park native and former Mount St. Joseph standout, will make his first All-Star apperance, starting at first base.

Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers was one of eight pitchers voted to the AL team. He is currently appealing the 20-game suspension he received last week after a tirade that sent a cameraman to the hospital. Rogers will be allowed to participate because he is appealing the suspension, but a team spokesman told the Associated Press that he has not decided whether he will go.

The Washington Nationals had a pair of right-handers, starter Livan Hernandez and closer Chad Cordero, selected to the National League squad.

All-Star starters

American League

C Jason Varitek, Red Sox

1B Mark Teixeira, Rangers

2B Brian Roberts, Orioles

SS Miguel Tejada, Orioles

3B Alex Rodriguez, Yankees

OF Manny Ramirez, Red Sox

OF Vladimir Guerrero, Angels

OF Johnny Damon, Red Sox

DH David Ortiz, Red Sox

National League

C Mike Piazza, Mets

1B Derrek Lee, Cubs

2B Jeff Kent, Dodgers

SS David Eckstein, Cardinals

3B Scott Rolen, Cardinals

OF Jim Edmonds, Cardinals

OF Bobby Abreu, Phillies

OF Carlos Beltran, Mets

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