07/05/09 6:20 PM EST
Ramirez to start at short for NL All-Stars
Marlins righty Johnson earns first trip to Midsummer Classic
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
On Sunday, shortstop Hanley Ramirez became the first player in Marlins history to be voted into the starting lineup of the All-Star Game twice by the fans. And Josh Johnson, an overpowering 6-foot-7 right-hander, was also selected to the National League squad by the players/coaches/managers votes. Fans do not vote for the All-Star pitchers.
Based on the numbers, both were highly deserving.
"I'm glad the players received this recognition," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's good for them and good for the organization."
Obviously biased, Florida's players say these two choices were no-brainers.
"J.J. and Hanley absolutely deserve it," Marlins center fielder Cody Ross said. "To be voted in by your peers is awesome. Hanley was a no-brainer. I've said before, if he didn't win the fan vote, chances are I'd never watch another All-Star Game, because that would have been the biggest injustice in a long time."
Ramirez, 25, is leading the NL in hitting with a .346 average. He was the people's choice for the second successive season. Previously, the only Florida player to get the fans' nod was Gary Sheffield, as a third baseman, in 1993.
Johnson, also 25, was named to his first All-Star squad. Armed with a 97-mph fastball, he is 7-1 with a 2.76 ERA, and Florida is 14-3 in his 17 starts.
Considering how dominant Johnson has been, an argument could be made that he deserves to start. However, that won't be possible. The towering right-hander is slated for two more starts before the break -- on Tuesday at San Francisco and July 12 at Arizona.
The All-Star Game is set for July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Johnson should be available for an inning of relief, since that would be his scheduled day to throw between starts.
A year ago, Ramirez represented the Marlins in the Midsummer Classic in the final season at the old Yankee Stadium.
The 80th 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.
In his fourth season with the Marlins, Ramirez has already established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and he's been regarded as an elite player since. He's the first NL shortstop to be named a starter in back-to-back years since Edgar Renteria in 2003-04.
"What can I say, it's an honor," Ramirez said. "I think it's something that motivates you to keep getting better. A lot of players on other teams have shown me a lot of respect.
"Now, every time you play different teams, they talk to you like you've been around for 10 or 11 years."
Being named the starting shortstop comes at a time the Dominican Republic native is on a roll. Ramirez recently became the first shortstop in NL history to collect at least one RBI in 10 straight games. The string is also a franchise record, and it's the most by any player in the big leagues since Garret Anderson had a run of 12 in a row in 2007.
Over his historic streak, Ramirez drove in 24 runs.
Johnson has made a remarkable return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. The 6-foot-7 Oklahoma resident underwent the procedure in August 2007, and he was back in Florida's rotation in July 2008. A year ago, he finished 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts.
Johnson has logged two complete games this season, and he ranks among the NL leaders in ERA and innings pitched (114 1/3).
"Just getting there is big for me," said Johnson, who doesn't take anything for granted after he missed most of 2007 and half of '08 due to his elbow injury. "From where I've come, going through surgery and all that stuff, it's come a long way."
Momentum for Johnson to be added to the All-Star Game built in recent weeks, but the right-hander wasn't looking ahead. In fact, his wife, Heidi, had made plans to spend the All-Star break in California with her family. Not wanting to jinx anything, she didn't cancel those plans until now.
"When I'm heading to St. Louis and I get to the hotel, walk in and see everybody, that's when it will sink in," Johnson said. "I still have two more starts, though."
The last time Johnson appeared in an All-Star Game was in 2005, when he was the winning pitcher in the Double-A Southern League All-Star Game in Mobile, Ala.
Johnson said he was in line for the MVP of that game, but that title went to Jeremy Hermida, his Marlins teammate. Hermida went 3-for-5 with four RBIs that day.
"They told me I would have been the MVP until Herm took it from me," Johnson said jokingly.
A number of impressive players were in that Southern League All-Star Game, including Dan Uggla, Ricky Nolasco and Russell Martin. Uggla was then in Arizona's system, and Nolasco was pitching in the Cubs organization.
"I couldn't be happier for him, coming up through his Minor League career to where he is now," Hermida said. "When you talk to guys on other teams, they say that he's one of the nastiest guys they've faced. It's good that he is getting some recognition that he deserves."
Nolasco echoed Hermida's praise for Johnson: "He's got to be really proud. He's deserving, just as anybody on that team. He's come out here, just from Day 1, and he's been lights out. Every time I've watched him pitch, I don't think I've seen anybody better than him out there. He's that good."
Ramirez was the fans' choice, thanks partly to a big campaign by the Marlins' marketing department, which helped generate more than 500,000 votes for the shortstop a few weeks ago.
Ramirez said he hasn't been asked to compete in the State Farm Home Run Derby on July 13. He added that he isn't interested in participating in the showcase slugging event.
Signed through the 2014 season, Ramirez promises to threaten a franchise record for most All-Star appearances. Miguel Cabrera holds that distinction, being selected four times, from 2004-08. However, Cabrera was never voted in as a starter.
In 2008, Ramirez batted leadoff in the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. It will be interesting to see if NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Phillies will hit him there again.
A speed-power threat, Ramirez has switched to batting third in the order this year; St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols is expected to hit third in the All-Star Game.
"I want to thank the fans and everybody," Ramirez said. "I'm really happy, and I'm happy for J.J. He deserves it. It's good for him. I've got somebody that I can talk to."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.