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Loaiza named AL All-Star
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07/04/2004  7:00 PM ET
Loaiza named AL All-Star
Right-hander lone South Sider named to AL roster
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Esteban Loaiza is heading to his second straight All-Star Game. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

CHICAGO -- When White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pulled aside Esteban Loaiza shortly after he arrived in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Sunday, his immediate first thought was that the South Siders had pulled off another major trade.

Maybe the move even involved him.

"Ozzie told me he needed to talk to me, and I didn't know what was going on," said a smiling Loaiza. "I thought something really important was going to happen."

There was no trade, but the news held great importance, as Loaiza surmised. It was especially significant for the 32-year-old right-hander. Loaiza learned that he was selected to his second straight All-Star Game and second of his career, serving as the lone representative for the first-place White Sox.

   Esteban Loaiza  /   P
Born: 12/31/71
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

It has been quite a ride for Loaiza since arriving in Chicago. He started as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training of 2003 and ended up on the cover of the team's Year in Review and 2004 media guide.

A trip to the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field was never in doubt for Loaiza. Not with an 11-5 record and 2.21 ERA at the break. The only question was whether Loaiza would get the start in front of the home faithful.

This year's selection came as a complete surprise to the veteran hurler.

"I actually told Ozzie, 'How did I do that?'" said Loaiza with a laugh, talking about his reaction to Guillen's news. "And he said, 'Well, I don't know. That's what I told them.'

"I'm really happy. I don' know who voted me in, but thank you very much. I'm really happy, but I'm also really shocked."

2004 All-Star Game

A common refrain during the first half of the 2004 season is 'Why isn't Esteban Loaiza the same pitcher as he was in 2003?'

The answer appears to be fairly simple: only a handful of Hall of Fame hurlers can put up the same numbers Loaiza did last year in back-to-back seasons. Loaiza posted 21-9 record with a 2.90 ERA and led the American League with 207 strikeouts.

He finished second in AL Cy Young balloting and tied a single-season mark for most wins by a Mexican- born pitcher. It was a career effort for a pitcher who had never won more than 11 games prior to his arrival on the South Side, was a sub-.500 pitcher for his career and had brought with him a mere 69 career victories.

Loaiza is still getting the job done currently for the AL Central title contenders. He has an 8-4 record, moving him within two victories of 100 for his career, and a 4.37 ERA in 17 starts. He has thrown two complete games and one brilliant shutout in St. Petersburg against the Devil Rays.

The strikeout totals are down at 68, and his 18 home runs allowed are one more than he gave up during the entire 2003 season. The league has moved a little more in tune with his deceptive cutter, but there's still nothing wrong with Loaiza.

"I'm not throwing the ball like I did last year," said Loaiza, who has the highest ERA of any pitcher selected for the 2004 All-Star Game. "I'm working on it real hard and I'm trying to win every single game. It hasn't happened so far, but I have eight wins and I'm still shooting for 20."

Both Minnesota and the White Sox, the two teams leading the Central Sunday, had only one All-Star selection apiece. The third-place Indians had four players selected -- pitcher C.C. Sabathia, catcher Victor Martinez, outfielder Matt Lawton and second baseman Ron Belliard. Fourth-place Detroit will be sending catcher Ivan Rodriguez (a voted-in starter) and shortstop Carlos Guillen.

Loaiza, originally from Tijuana, Mexico, currently lives in Southlake, Texas. He will be pitching in front of his family with this year's game being played in Houston, a three-hour drive from his home. Loaiza mentioned that his girlfriend, Ashley, has a lot of friends and family in the Houston area, and that their All- Star break plans happily will have to be changed.

The reserves were picked, in part, through the ballots of players, managers and coaches from around the American League. Loaiza was one of the players named to the team by manage Joe Torre, in conjunction with Major League Baseball.

It was a surprise selection, with Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu possessing better numbers than Loaiza on the White Sox staff. But it also signals a show of respect for a pitcher who has more wins (29) than anyone in baseball during the past two seasons.

"I'm not going to say it's a surprise because he's pitched real well," said Guillen of Loaiza. "But I think (Paul) Konerko and Frank (Thomas), they've had a better year than he has. But good for Loaiza. Hopefully, he'll enjoy it."

"They selected me and I'm going to the All-Star Game," Loaiza added. "But there are a lot of players here that should go to the All-Star Game."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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