Fuentes closes deal on All-Star nod
Lefty closer is third pitcher in team history to make squad
ST. LOUIS -- Less than a week into the season after some rough patches in Spring Training and a poor regular-season start, Colorado Rockies left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes went on a search -- for himself.
"My confidence was down," Fuentes said. "I asked some veteran players like Todd Greene and other pitchers who knew me what was going on. They just told me some things about tempo, but otherwise just told me to be myself. That's what I've done."
On July 12, you can find Fuentes at the All-Star Game. St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, the victim of Fuentes' 10th save of the season on Saturday night, named Fuentes to the team as a reserve on Sunday.
The All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Fuentes, 29, is 10-of-12 in save opportunities overall and 10-of-11 since becoming the closer when Chin-hui Tsao went down with season-ending shoulder problems in May. He has held opponents to six earned runs in the last 29 games, and has struck out 21 in 13 1/3 innings over his last 12 games.
Fuentes becomes the third pitcher in the Rockies' 12-year history to be invited to the Midsummer Classic. Mike Hampton pitched in 2001. Shawn Chacon was invited in 2003, but did not pitch because of an elbow injury.
"I never thought I'd get into it," Fuentes said. "A couple of times in the Minor Leagues I thought I was close, but for one reason or another it didn't happen. Coming into this year, I was setting up, so I had a slim chance there. Even as a closer, there are some pretty elite closers.
"It's pretty surreal. I think when I get there I'm going to have to kind of act like I'm not awestruck."
For Fuentes, it's a long way from early April.
Through his first six appearances, Fuentes was 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA, and had six walks against three strikeouts. After his third appearance, when he gave up a hit and a walk against the only two batters he faced and set up rookie Scott Dohmann to blow a save, Fuentes admitted being shaken.
But manager Clint Hurdle sensed Fuentes would find his form.
Hurdle thought back to 2003, when Fuentes pitched poorly in Spring Training. Being out of options, Fuentes was in danger of being taken off the 40-man Major League roster and possibly lost to another team. Hurdle said the organization was split about the fate of Fuentes, who was acquired in the December 2001 trade that sent third baseman Jeff Cirillo to Seattle.
"He's always been a grinder, and always been a guy through good and bad that always has a very solid amount of self-confidence," Hurdle said. "He doesn't rankle easily.
"We had a brand-new staff come in here in '03 and the spring he had was horrendous. I just told the staff, 'You have to trust me on this one.' He had the wherewithal to keep grinding, and obviously he went on to have a good season. He's professional in everything he does."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.