07/12/10 8:50 PM ET
Rangers ready to build on All-Star legacy
Six players look to follow lead of Young, Blalock, Soriano, Tex
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
Josh Hamilton is in center field and batting fourth. Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is right behind him in the American League lineup. Cliff Lee, with three days' rest, said he's ready for an inning or two. Neftali Feliz said he would love the chance to close.Elvis Andrus? "One of our best is not here, and that's Michael Young," Andrus said. "I hope God gives me his magic for the All-Star. I hope God gives me a little something of Michael to do something special." Young may not be here for a seventh straight year, but he is still a part of the Rangers' recent rich All-Star legacy, a run that started when Hank Blalock hit the game-winning home run off reliever Eric Gagne in the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field. "Vlad could do something cool, Elvis could do something, Cliff could pitch a scoreless inning, Ian could steal a bag," Hamilton said. "It's crazy, isn't it? I could hit a grand slam. I'm batting fourth, aren't I? Go figure." Blalock's blast put the Rangers in the All-Star spotlight in 2003, and they have been hogging it ever since. Alfonso Soriano was 2-for-3 with a home run in the 2004 game in Houston to win MVP honors, and Mark Teixeira's two-run home run in Detroit in 2005 proved to be the winning margin in the AL's 7-5 victory. Young stepped to the front in 2006 in Pittsburgh, when he hit a two-run triple off reliever Trevor Hoffman in the top of the ninth inning to lift the AL to a 3-2 victory. He was the MVP that year, a first for the Rangers since Julio Franco in 1990. In 2008, after Hamilton put on his spectacular show in the Home Run Derby with a record 28 home runs in the first round, Young again delivered the game-winning RBI with a 15th-inning sacrifice fly that gave the AL a 4-3 victory. He is the only player in All-Star history with two game-winning RBIs in his team's last at-bat. Hamilton was 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Young, starting for the first time, was also 1-for-3 in 2009, when the AL won its seventh straight with another 4-3 victory. "Hank provided the most memorable moment, I think," Kinsler said. "Hitting that home run ... just because of the myth of Gagne -- he was untouchable back then. He had a 96-97-mph fastball, he threw a changeup that nobody could see. Hank being able to take him deep ... that was a great moment." The Rangers were absent from the 2007 game, as Young was selected, but did not play. But Guerrero was there in San Francisco while still with the Angels, and he won the Home Run Derby. Now he returns to the All-Star Game as a member of the Rangers, and he will be back in the ballpark that was his home for six years. Guerrero played for the Angels from 2004-09, and was a big fan favorite here before signing with the Rangers in the offseason. He came back a couple of weeks ago in a three-game series with the Angels. Guerrero received huge ovations from the fans during the series, and he responded by going 6-for-11 with three home runs and eight RBIs against his old team. "You know he's excited to be back here," Kinsler said. Both Guerrero's pregame introduction and his first at-bat should be memorable moments just from the reaction he draws from the crowd. But a guy who is hitting .319 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs at the break is capable of doing far more than just strolling onto the field and doffing his cap. "When you have both Vlad and Josh in the lineup, you know one or both of them can impact a game at any moment," Kinsler said. "Hopefully one of us will step up in the course of the game. It wouldn't be the All-Star Game without the Rangers affecting the game." They have been doing it with offense lately. Maybe it's time their pitchers did something memorable. The only two Rangers pitchers to get a win in the All-Star Game were Nolan Ryan in 1989 here in Anaheim, and Kevin Brown in 1992. John Wetteland picked up a save at Fenway Park in 1999. Maybe that role could fall to Feliz. Normally Mariano Rivera closes for the AL at the All-Star Game, but the Yankees' closer is inactive this year because of a sore right knee and muscle in his left side. That leaves the AL with a relatively inexperienced bullpen. They have six relievers, but Andrew Bailey, Joakim Soria and Jose Valverde are making only their second All-Star appearance, while Feliz, Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano are here for the first time. Soria leads the AL with 25 saves, while Feliz and Soriano are tied for second with 23. Rivera's four All-Star saves are the most for any pitcher since 1969. "This is an incredible experience for me," Feliz said. "I would love for the chance to close. It would be incredible. One of my dreams is to pitch in an All-Star Game, and here I am right now." He has five teammates with him. When it comes to the All-Star Game, the Rangers take a back seat to nobody.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.