KANSAS CITY — Rocco Baldelli might have spent more time on the phone lobbying for his players to make the All-Star team if the American League manager would take his calls.
“The American League manager is too busy for people like me,” Baldelli joked of his former boss, Rays manager Kevin Cash. “He does not generally pick up the phone or respond to texts very often, unless he needs something, and then everyone’s phone starts blowing up.”
Truthfully, the game managers — Cash and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts — no longer have much say in the matter anyway, as spots are filled by fan voting, player voting and the commissioner’s office, but Baldelli rarely misses a chance to poke fun at Cash.
Cash, he hopes, is managing a few of his players come July 13 when the All-Star Game is played in Denver. But with the Twins at the bottom of the American League Central, it’s very possible that they wind up with just one All-Star.
Whom that will be will be revealed at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN when pitchers and reserves are announced. Starters were revealed Thursday, and injured center fielder Byron Buxton was narrowly edged by the Blue Jays’ Teoscar Hernandez for the final outfield spot. Hernandez had fewer than 5,000 votes more than Buxton.
“We have a handful of guys that have clearly given All-Star-caliber performances,” Baldelli said. “Sometimes it’s easier to go out there and sell having multiple All-Stars in years like in the past when we’ve won more games and things like that, but I will say this: When you actually break down what these guys have done, it’s been very, very impressive.”
While it’s still theoretically possible for Buxton to make the game — he would have needed to have been voted in by fellow players — the Twins’ All-Star (or All-Stars) will almost assuredly come from a trio of veterans: designated hitter Nelson Cruz, starter José Berríos and reliever Taylor Rogers.
Cruz’s case perhaps is the strongest. The 41-year-old designated hitter — vying to be an All-Star for the seventh time — is hitting .306 with a .381 on-base percentage and .571 slugging percentage. His .952 OPS is near the top of the American League, and his 18 home runs lead the Twins.
Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was voted to start at designated hitter, but Cruz stacks up well against others at his position.
“Nelson has just been doing more Nelson-type things,” Baldelli said. “… You start looking at adding another bat, another DH-type bat, and I think Nelson fits in very, very well there.”
Should Berríos earn the honor, it would be for the third time in his career.
“That’s one of the things that I grew up watching on TV,” Berríos said. “Obviously enjoy every Home Run Derby, every (All-Star) Game. Now I’ve had a chance to play (in) it. My family enjoys it a lot so I know that means a lot to my family, so I take pride in that and always I’m going to do my best to try to make it.”
Berríos is 7-2 this season with a 3.52 earned-run average. He’s struck out 96 batters in 94 2/3 innings. His kids — particularly his daughter, Valentina — are particularly fond of the All-Star Game parade, where they can wave to crowds of assembled fans.
“They think that we are in Disney World,” Berríos said.
While starting pitchers have chances to be named as replacements if not originally named, Berríos is on the schedule to start on the Sunday before the game, which would mean he would be ineligible to pitch in the game. If he winds up starting that day, it would essentially take away his chance to make the team as a replacement.
For Rogers, it would be the first All-Star nod of his career, and it would come in his hometown. Rogers has been the most reliable member out of the Twins’ bullpen this season. He has a 2.73 ERA and has seven saves. Both Rogers and his twin, Giants reliever Tyler, have good cases for inclusion.
“We have a lot of guys that you could look to,” Baldelli said. “I think all of them are deserving and could very easily find themselves depending on what the All-Star group is looking like.”