07/12/11 11:57 PM ET
Pineda not nervous in first All-Star appearance
Rookie strikes out two in scoreless third; League pitches seventh
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
The 22-year-old hurler, whose All-Star selection came amidst a remarkable first-half campaign that included an 8-6 mark and 3.03 ERA, insisted on Tuesday afternoon that nerves would not be accompanying his trip to the mound that night.
"There's nothing to be nervous about," he said convincingly.
Entering the Midsummer Classic in the bottom of the third inning of a scoreless game, Pineda fearlessly made a fool of veteran hitters by forcing a fly ball from Troy Tulowitzki for out No. 1 before quickly fanning Scott Rolen and Rickie Weeks to put an end to the frame.
The moment marked a special one for Pineda, who enthusiastically relayed his excitement surrounding the night, which was ultimately defined by a 5-1 National League victory at Chase Field. Two Mariners made appearances in the contest, the other coming from Brandon League.
"I've always worked hard, hoping one day I can be an All-Star, but I never thought it would come this quickly," Pineda said. "For me, it's something really big and really special. I'm really grateful that it's my first year in the big leagues and here I am at the All-Star Game."
The 6-foot-7 sensation found much comfort and strength from the presence of teammate Felix Hernandez, who was restricted to a spectator role during the game after starting for the Mariners on Sunday.
"I'm really proud to be with the best pitcher in the American League," Pineda said of the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
"He's got a lot of talent," Hernandez said. "This is a great experience for him, for all of us."
Hernandez's second All-Star nod was hardly a surprise, given his ongoing impressive credentials -- 8-7 record and 3.19 ERA with 140 strikeouts in 144 innings -- and respected standing among the game's arms.
But the hard-throwing righty, still just 25, found himself flanked not only by the young Pineda, but a deserving League, who ranks second in the AL with 23 saves after taking over the closer's role left by the injured David Aardsma.
"I was very fortunate to set up for Aardsma last year," League said, "and fortunate I was given the chance to close this season.
The right-handed League, 28, has been stellar outside of a forgettable four-game stretch in mid-May when he lost four straight games. Prior to that, he tallied nine straight saves, and since then has allowed just one earned run in 20 2/3 innings.
League was afforded the chance to showcase his blossoming arm in the seventh frame of Tuesday's contest, garnering a full inning of work from AL manager Ron Washington.
He surrendered a leadoff hit to Hunter Pence before calming down to strike out Starlin Castro. Pence advanced all the way to third on a passed ball, then Pablo Sandoval scored him with a ground-rule double before League secured the final two outs.
No matter the results that stemmed from the game, though, the overall experience proved far superior.
"This is a beautiful thing," Pineda said. "Just beautiful."