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July 3, 2011 at 1:55 PM

Reaction to the M’s All-Stars

(From Bud Withers, Times staff)
The Mariners placed pitchers Felix Hernandez and Brandon League on the American League All-Star team announced Sunday morning, but the omission of two others will no doubt stimulate conversation this week.
Hernandez made the team for the second time – he threw a scoreless inning in 2009 in the mid-summer classic – but this time, he likely won’t be able to pitch. He’s scheduled to start Sunday in the last game before the break against the Angels, and the rules prohibit those starters from appearing two days later as a precaution against arm injuries.
“Maybe he can go there and pitch for me,” Hernandez joked, referring to righthanded rookie teammate Michael Pineda, who was snubbed despite a 7-5 record and 2.65 earned-run average, sixth-best in the American League.
Also likely to sit home is Ichiro for the first time in his 11-year Mariners career. Hitting only .271, compared to his career average of .331 entering 2011, Ichiro was passed over by Texas manager Ron Washington for a reserve spot, so his only possible entry would be as an injury replacement.
“Ichiro’s had a great career,” said manager Eric Wedge. “He’s worked hard this year, he’s come to the ballpark every day prepared, which is all you can do.
“He’s been better the last month, and hopefully he can be even more consistent in the second half for us.”
Not only is Hernandez unlikely to actually pitch in the July 12 game, League might be a questionmark as well. That’s dependent on his wife Sasha, who is pregnant and due July 13.
Asked if he had thought lately about being a first-time pick, League, tied for the AL lead in saves with 21, said, “I can’t say I didn’t think about it, but I’ve got other things on my mind right now. We went to the hospital two nights ago, and the doctor said ‘Any day.’ ”
That could impact League on the M’s six-game road trip starting Monday to Oakland and Anaheim. But at least he’ll be on the West Coast.
League said there was no question he’d skip the All-Star game if the impending birth conflicted with the trip.
League, 28, had a stretch to forget the second week of May, resulting in his 0-4 record. But other than that, he has been eminently reliable, converting all but three of 24 save opportunities as a stand-in for closer David Aardsma.
“It wouldn’t have been possible if Wedgie hadn’t given me an opportunity to close and stuck with me,” said League, who also credited his teammates and said, “If it wasn’t me, it could have been anybody on this pitching staff.”
League conceded that “I’ve always wanted to close ever since I came to the big leagues and became a bullpen guy.”
Wedge lauded League, and in reference to the Baltimore meltdown in May, said, “You’re not going to be perfect. What I like most about Leaguer is he was able to face up to it (the blown saves) and stand up to it.”
As for Hernandez, 25, Wedge said, “He’s an impressive young man. He’s got a great personality, he’s a good teammate and he’s a hard worker. He doesn’t let his ego get in the way and he handles the good and bad like you’d like anybody to handle it.”
Hernandez’ numbers aren’t to the level of his Cy Young season of 2010 – he’s 8-7 with a 3.35 ERA, compared to 13-12 with an eye-opening 2.27 ERA at the finish last year – but he said he’s “close enough. I’ve got to be more consistent. I throw one game good, the next one OK. I just need to try to do what I did last year.”
A year ago, Hernandez had a 1.53 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break, third-lowest by an AL starter in the last 25 years over that period.
Wedge said he didn’t want to get into specific snubs of his players. And as for the hard choices that had to be made by last year’s World Series managers – Washington and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy – he quipped, “It’s something I wouldn’t mind having the burden of doing.”

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