07/08/2004 7:55 PM ET
Eight Yanks set for All-Star Game
Sheffield, Gordon, Rivera, Matsui, Vazquez join starters
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Gary Sheffield will make his eighth All-Star appearance, but his first on the AL side. (Frank Franklin II/AP)
NEW YORK -- Joe Torre will have plenty of familiar faces with him in the American League's dugout at the All-Star Game in Houston, as eight members of the New York Yankees have made the AL's roster.
Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were elected by the fans as starters, while Gary Sheffield and Mariano Rivera were selected in the voting by players, coaches and managers. Tom Gordon was one of seven players added to the team by Torre, who will manage the AL squad for the sixth time since 1997. Hideki Matsui was added as the AL Final Vote winner, and pitcher Javier Vazquez was named as a replacement for injured Tim Hudson on Thursday.
"We have some guys who know how to play and can do some exciting things," Jeter said. "It's good for the organization."
The Midsummer Classic will take place on Tuesday, July 13, at Houston's Minute Maid Park.
Jeter returns to the All-Star team after missing out last year for the first time since 1998. This is the first time in his career that Jeter has been elected by the fans, as A-Rod's move to third base opened the position up. Jeter received 2,052,880 votes, over 400,000 more than second-place finisher Nomar Garciaparra.
"I've been close before, but Nomar got me on the last day or two [in 1999]," Jeter said. "It makes you feel good that the fans want to see you on that stage."
Joining Jeter at shortstop are Baltimore's Miguel Tejada and Texas' Michael Young. This is Jeter's sixth All-Star appearance, having made the team in each season from 1998-2002. Jeter went 3-for-3 in the 2000 game in Atlanta, earning MVP honors.
Jeter, who battled a slump in the early months (he was hitting .189 on May 25), has been on fire ever since. He hit .396 in June with nine home runs, scoring 24 runs in 23 games.
"I think they appreciate what Derek represents. He's a special kid," said Torre of the fans. "Jeter, where he's come to over the last month and a half, that's pretty crazy."
For Rodriguez, this marks his eighth All-Star appearance, but the first as a third baseman. Rodriguez, in his first season with the Yankees after winning the AL MVP award last year, has been everything New York expected offensively, and has played third base like a Gold Glover in his debut season at the position. Texas' Hank Blalock, a former teammate of A-Rod's, will back him up.
Rodriguez received 2,915,901 votes, easily outpacing former teammate Hank Blalock by more than 1.6 million votes. Blalock was named as a reserve for the AL.
"The fact that the fans voted you is nice," Rodriguez said. "Every time you go, it humbles you -- makes you feel appreciative. The fact that the fans voted by just an overwhelming margin makes you that much prouder.
"It's a great honor," he added. "You're there to represent the American League, and now the World Series is at stake."
Giambi is making his fifth consecutive All-Star appearance, having started in 2000 and 2002. He beat out Chicago's Frank Thomas for the starting spot, and will be backed up by Boston's David Ortiz and Kansas City's Ken Harvey.
Giambi, Jeter and Rodriguez will be joined in the starting infield by former Yankee Alfonso Soriano, as the second baseman was the leading votegetter in earning his third All-Star start. Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez beat out Yankees catcher Jorge Posada for the starting job behind the plate, while Cleveland's Victor Martinez was voted in on the player ballot.
"My toughest call was to see Jorge not make it for the first time in a couple of years," Torre said. "This was the first year that you had a real crop of catchers to pick from. Javy Lopez, Jason Varitek, Jorge and Damian Miller -- every one of them was certainly All-Star caliber."
Sheffield is making his eighth All-Star appearance, representing the AL for the first time. Sheffield started for the National League last season, the second time in his career he was elected by the fans (the other was 1993). He will back up starting outfielders Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Ichiro Suzuki.
"It's quite an honor doing it as a Yankee," said Sheffield, who has now made the All-Star team for five different organizations. "It's easy to do it on expansion teams, when you're the only name on the team and they have to pick somebody. To do it on this team, that's an accomplishment."
Rivera has now been selected to six All-Star teams, rejoining the AL squad after his four-year streak was snapped in 2003. Rivera earned the save in his first Midsummer Classic in 1997, and has not allowed a run in three All-Star outings. Although he was chosen for the 2001 team, a foot injury kept him from participating.
"It's a moment where all the stars come together and show their best," Rivera said. "It's an honor to be there. I'll have fun and do the best that I can."
Rivera is one of four closers on the AL team, joining Texas' Francisco Cordero, Minnesota's Joe Nathan and Anaheim's Francisco Rodriguez.
Gordon, who was one of four pitchers added to the team by Torre, is making his second All-Star appearance, his first as a setup man. Gordon, then a closer for the Red Sox, pitched in the 1998 game in Colorado. This season, Gordon has been one of the most dominant setup men in the league, giving the Yankees a solid bridge to Rivera.
"I'm truly blessed and grateful," Gordon said. "In 1998, I got an opportunity to be on the All-Star team, and it went by so quick, I barely remember half the things that took place. This time, I'll really cherish the moments, see what the All-Star experience is. ... Especially the first year coming here to play, being selected as an All-Star, it's tremendous. It's a great thing."
"He was stunned. That was a lot of fun for me," said Torre, who informed Gordon of his selection before Sunday's game. "We wouldn't have had the success that we've had here in the first half without him. I know Mo [Rivera] gets all the attention, but Gordon has made Mo's job a lot easier."
This is the first time since Torre took over the Yankees in 1996 that New York has sent eight players to the All-Star Game. In 2001 and 2002, six Yankees represented the AL, while the team sent five players in 1997, 1998 and 2003.
"Going there with our manager, having a very heavy group of Yankees there," said Rodriguez, "that makes it more special."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.