Red Sox sending five to All-Star Game
Ortiz, Ramirez, Beckett, Lowell, Papelbon on AL squad
BOSTON -- In a representative display of their solid first half, the Red Sox will send five players to the July 10 All-Star Game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Right-hander Josh Beckett, who is the only first-time All-Star among the Boston representatives, was selected in the player balloting.
David Ortiz was the lone Sox player to be voted in as a starter by the fans. The four-time All-Star will play first base for the American League. With 2,857,848 votes, the beloved Big Papi outdistanced second-place finisher Justin Morneau (1,780,118) by a wide margin.
This is the first time in Manny Ramirez's seven seasons with the Red Sox that he was not voted in by the fans. However, Ramirez was elected by his peers as a reserve outfielder. This is the 11th time Ramirez has been an All-Star.
Jonathan Papelbon, the lights-out closer, was also voted in by the players, marking his second All-Star selection in his two Major League seasons.
And third baseman Mike Lowell rounds out the Boston quintet. A three-time All-Star with the Marlins, this will be Lowell's first time on the American League squad. Getting selected as an All-Star was a proud moment for a player who was perceived by many as a "throw-in" in the deal that brought Beckett to Boston in November 2005.
"Hopefully the trade is good now," quipped Lowell.
The Red Sox, though they've lost five of their last six games, have led the American League East for 78 consecutive days.
"I'm proud of them and proud of our organization," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We are going to be well represented, as we should be. Regardless of the last five or six days, we have one of the best records in baseball. We have a lot of good players, and I hope we get a sixth."
That potential sixth Francona was referring to is lefty reliever Hideki Okajima, who is one of five players in the AL to be on the Final Vote ballot, which runs until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Beckett has emerged into the ace of the Red Sox at the age of 27, going 11-2 with a 3.38 ERA.
"It's exciting to be able to represent this team and the American League. It's an exciting time," said Beckett. "It's a big deal. I don't really know what else to say besides I'm excited. It's gonna be fun. I'm looking forward to it, I really am."
Beckett figures to be on All-Star manager Jim Leyland's short list of candidates to start the game.
In fact, when Leyland was in Boston in mid-May, he said that if the All-Star Game was to take place at that point, Beckett would be his starter. Beckett will be on four days' rest entering the All-Star Game, something that definitely wouldn't hurt his chances of starting.
"It's not up to me," said Beckett. "I don't really have any control over that. It would be another exciting feat. Right now, I'm just excited to go and let Jim Leyland take care of all those decisions."
Ortiz, after belting a team record 54 home runs last year, is off to a modest start in the power department. He has 14 homers. However, Ortiz is hitting .314 with 27 doubles and 49 RBIs.
Similarly, Ramirez (11 homers in 280 at-bats) hasn't cleared the wall at the rate fans have been accustomed to seeing. But the cleanup man has scored 40 runs, driven in 43 and has a .385 on-base percentage. Ramirez finished fourth in the fan voting behind Vladimir Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez and Ichiro Suzuki.
Last year, Ramirez declined his invitation to the All-Star Game, citing right knee woes.
"He sounds like he's excited," said Lowell. "I said, 'This is the only year you thought you didn't make it and now you're going.' Every other year, he knows he's going."
Papelbon has followed his brilliant rookie season with similar dominance in 2007. The 26-year-old righty converted 19 of his first 20 save opportunities while posting a 1.50 ERA.
"Obviously it's a huge milestone for me. I'd like to be one of those perennial guys at the All-Star Game every year," said Papelbon. "It is the All-Star Game and it is an honor. There are a lot of great relief pitchers out there who didn't get in. Hopefully I can go out there and represent the American League as best I can."
The classy Lowell is hitting .297 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs.
"It is a tremendous honor and I don't think it is ever not an honor," Lowell said. "And this is a great group of guys and I am happy that we are going to be well-represented."
The teammate who can best appreciate Lowell's All-Star selection is Beckett, who watched up close in Florida when the third baseman bottomed out at the plate in 2005, hitting .236.
"He came back last year and had a good year," said Beckett. "This year he's kind of gotten back to that Mike Lowell that I remember from all those years in Florida. It's definitely nice to see good things happen to good people."
As always, there were deserving candidates who didn't make it. Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is hitting .329 with nine homers and 44 RBIs.
"For me, it's just going out and playing," Youkilis said. "You can't worry about All-Star Games and stuff like that. For us this year, we have to worry about winning and trying to win a World Series."
Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-5, 3.80 ERA, 110 strikeouts) was also a tough omission.
The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.