07/02/06 9:00 PM ET
Quartet of Sox named All-Stars
Ortiz, Ramirez, Loretta and Papelbon all get the nod
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The group with an all-access invitation to Pittsburgh was flanked by superstar sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and rounded out by star rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon and steady second baseman Mark Loretta. The three position players were voted on by the fans while Papelbon was selected by the players, receiving 283 votes, the most of any relief pitcher.
In particular, being able to relay the news to Papelbon, who has come so far in such a short period of time, brought Red Sox manager Terry Francona to tears.
"It was very emotional, to be honest," said Papelbon. "Your first All-Star [selection], your first year with your manager. All the things we've been through with last year up and down [from the Minors] and this year starting off the season together. Hopefully I'll be able to play for Terry for a long, long time and be a part of him and be a part of this whole Red Sox organization."
Though it was a day of organizational pride for the Red Sox, it also came with a bittersweet twinge. It was one of those years when the Red Sox had a lot of deserving players, so not everybody could make it.
Perhaps the most noteworthy snub was ace right-hander Curt Schilling, who entered the day tied for the American League lead in wins with 10, fifth in strikeouts (102), fifth in innings (114 1/3) and fourth in WHIP (1.08).
"Given what's happened over the last 18, 24 months, to be in this position [as a candidate] is very rewarding," said Schilling. "Obviously, going is a big deal. It means something to me, it always has. We're 14-3 in my 17 starts and I'm very proud of that."
Josh Beckett (10 wins), Mike Lowell (.308 average, 29 doubles), Jason Varitek (who led AL catchers in fan voting most of the way) and Kevin Youkilis (.312 average, 10 homers, 40 RBIs, .418 OBP) were other Boston players in the running.
"Always my hope is that as many guys as possible make it because they're our guys," said Francona. "My other hope is that those guys you're talking about got great consideration. If nothing else, maybe they got the respect of people looking. That would mean a lot to me."
Francona said earlier this week that he's in favor of Ramirez, who along with Ortiz and Loretta was voted in by the fans, not playing in the game and instead resting his ailing right knee. He reiterated that on Sunday.
"What I'm hoping is going to happen -- and again, if somebody's going to take some heat, I hope it's me. ... I've already asked Manny to not play," said Francona. "I didn't tell him he couldn't play. I've asked him in the interest in our ballclub, I'm think it's the best thing. I'm hoping that's kind of what he'll do."
Ramirez, maintaining the media silence he has held since March 1, was unavailable for comment. Ortiz, one of Ramirez's closest friends on the team, had no indication of what his fellow slugger would do.
"He hasn't talked to me about it," said Ortiz. "It's up to him. If he's hurting, he's got to chill out. If I was hurting, I'd chill out, too. The All-Star Game, that's good, but you've got a second half coming up. We're going to have a lot of doubleheaders, we need Manny."
The All-Star Game will be played on July 11 at PNC Park.
This is Ramirez's 10th All-Star berth. He has been voted in as a starter all six years he's been with the Red Sox. The milestones continue to add up for the gifted cleanup hitter, who notched career hit No. 2,000 on Saturday.
Ramirez (.309 average, 22 homers, 60 RBIs) hits behind the fearsome Ortiz, who has gone from platoon player in Minnesota to an All-Star for the Red Sox the last three seasons.
Ortiz, who finished second in the AL MVP voting in 2005, is having yet another monster season. He leads the Major Leagues in 75 RBIs, and has 26 homers. Because there is no DH in this year's game, Ortiz will start at first base.
Despite his rookie status, there was little doubt that Papelbon would make the team. He became the first pitcher since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1992 to successfully convert his first 20 save opportunities in a season. Almost unfathomably, Papelbon has given up just two earned runs in his first 41 2/3 innings of work. The case can be made that he's been Boston's MVP in the first half.
"Obviously for me it's an honor," said Papelbon. "It's something that I definitely set out to do at the beginning of the season, to be the best in my trade or one of the best. For me it's a real humbling experience to get voted to this and to be a part of this. So it's very surreal and very humbling to me."
Then there is Loretta, who has simply blended in on both sides of the ball. After a sluggish April, Loretta broke out by hitting .405 in May and .330 in June. A key part of a defense that broke a Major League record for consecutive errorless games, Loretta committed just three errors in his first 324 chances.
"I knew I was in second place with about a week to go. I had kind of, in some ways, written it off," said Loretta. "I'm very overwhelmed and humbled by it and excited and I think it speaks volumes to the Red Sox Nation. They get out there and support their team, so I'm very happy about it."
This is his second All-Star appearance in three years. He was the lone member of the 2004 Padres to make the All-Star team.
"It's going to be nice to go with some teammates this time," said Loretta. "It really kind of felt like you were on an island when you were the only guy from a team going. I think I'll be able to savor it."
So would Schilling, who might get added on if another pitcher on the AL squad suffers an injury.
Schilling is slated to pitch the last game before the All-Star break, which could well have been a reason that he wasn't added to the team by manager Ozzie Guillen.
"If they needed me to throw an inning, that wouldn't be an issue," said Schilling. "There's a lot of guys having good years in the American League this year."
But not many who have had the type of success as Papelbon.
"I came into the first half of the season with an opportunity Francona gave me," Papelbon said. "I kind of just took the ball and did what I know I can do, just go out there and compete. That's it. Lay everything on the line. Once Francona gave me the opportunity to be the closer for the Boston Red Sox, I just took it with open arms and never looked back."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.