The gathering of baseball’s stars next week in Cincinnati will include the King.
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was among the pitchers selected Monday to the American League roster for the All-Star Game on July 14 at Great American Ball Park.
“It’s always special to be an All-Star,” said Hernandez, who started last year’s game at Minnesota. “It’s one of those things that everybody wants to be. Every year, it’s an honor.”
Hernandez will join teammate Nelson Cruz, who was voted by fans as the AL’s starting designated hitter in results announced Sunday by Major League Baseball.
“He’s unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “He deserves it. He’s a great guy. We bring him here, and he’s the best player we’ve got.”
Hernandez is 10-5 with a 3.02 ERA with one start remaining — Thursday against the Angels — before the break. That positions him to pitch in the All-Star Game on normal rest.
The pitchers and all but one reserve for the 34-player squads were revealed Monday along with the five Final Vote candidates in each league.
Hernandez, 29, and Cruz, 35, are the only Mariners players picked to the AL squad, although manager Lloyd McClendon will serve as a coach under Kansas City manager Ned Yost.
This is the sixth selection for Hernandez, which sets a record for a Mariners pitcher. Randy Johnson was a five-time pick. The franchise record is 10 selections by outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro Suzuki.
Veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist officially became a free agent when he was released after clearing waivers.
The Mariners designated Bloomquist, 37, for assignment on July 2. He was batting .159 at the time in 35 games. He previously said he hoped to continue his playing career.
When Bloomquist cleared waivers, the Mariners remained obligated for the balance of his $3 million contract — or roughly $1.5 million.
The Mariners’ payout could diminish if Bloomquist signs elsewhere, but his new club would likely only pay a pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum salary. That amount is unlikely to be more than $250,000.
Start with the Mariners’ sputtering attack and add their solid pitching staff and — no surprise — Safeco Field is among the American League’s lowest-scoring ballparks.
Games at Safeco, prior to Monday, were averaging a mere 6.650 total runs a game. That ranked second to the 6.639 at U.S. Cellular Park in Chicago.
The Mariners entered the week ranked last among AL clubs in scoring at 3.39 runs a game. (That’s overall; not just at Safeco.) The White Sox were second at 3.43.
Pitching-wise, the Mariners’ 3.66 ERA ranked sixth overall among the 15 AL clubs, and their ERA at Safeco was 3.10. Only Oakland, at 2.90, had a lower ERA in home games among AL clubs.
This might surprise you considering his disappointing season: Robinson Cano tops all Mariners in hard-hit balls as determined by ESPN, which bases its ratings on video reviews by a game-tracking service.
Cano hits the ball hard 18.6 percent of the time, which ranks 34th in baseball. The Mariners have two other players in the top 50: Nelson Cruz at No. 39 (18.2 percent) and Kyle Seager at No. 48 (17.7 percent).
Washington outfielder Bryce Harper leads all players at 25.4 percent, followed by Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (24.5) and Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (24.2).
The leader among American League players is Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout, who ranks sixth overall at 22.4 percent.
Left-hander Danny Hultzen is scheduled to throw 15 pitches in a simulated game Wednesday in Arizona in his first action since being shut down in mid-May after three starts at Double-A Jackson.
If all goes well, Hultzen will pitch two innings on Monday in the Arizona Rookie. The tentative plan, barring a setback, is he will then be activated from the disabled list to pitch for a full-season affiliate (probably Jackson).
Hultzen, 25, missed all of last year while recovering from major shoulder surgery. He permitted three earned runs and 10 innings over three May starts before experiencing fatigue in his repaired shoulder.
The Mariners selected Hultzen with the second overall pick in the 2011 draft. He was rated by Baseball America among the game’s top 30 prospects prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Outfielder Pat Kivlehan, on loan from Triple-A Tacoma, led the U.S. Pan American Games squad to a 9-3 victory over Canada in the first game of the Americas Baseball Festival at the National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina.
Kivlehan, 25, went 3 for 4 with a triple, a homer and three RBIs.
“I felt good up there,” he said. “We had a good game plan coming in. I was just trying to stay aggressive and take advantage of some mistakes.”
Kivlehan was batting .237 in 76 games at Tacoma with 15 homers and 46 RBIs prior to joining the national team. He was a fourth-round pick in 2012.
The U.S. team will continue the training phase of its schedule Tuesday against Cuba. The Pan Am Games are July 10-19 in Toronto.
It was eight years ago Tuesday — July 7, 2007 — that Ichiro hit the first inside-the-park homer in All-Star history. It occurred at AT&T Park in San Francisco with other former and future Mariners playing key roles.
The homer came against Chris Young, then with San Diego, in the fifth inning with a runner on first. The ball caromed away from center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., then with Cincinnati.
Suzuki was 3 for 3 as the American League held on for a 5-4 victory when Mariners reliever J.J. Putz allowed a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Suzuki was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player.
The Mariners and Tigers continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (7-6, 4.34 ERA) will face Detroit lefty Kyle Ryan (1-2, 4.55). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.