ANAHEIM, Calif. – The telephone call came less than an hour before Sunday’s game, and Seattle Mainers manager Eric Wedge passed the news on to pitching coach Carl Willis.
“Tell Michael he’s been named to the All-Star team,” Wedge said.
Willis did – which is how Mariners rookie Michael Pineda learned he was going to travel to Phoenix with teammates Felix Hernandez and Brandon League.
“When I heard, I just said, ‘Oh, wow!’ ” Pineda said, beaming. “I’m excited.”
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound right-hander has had an impact on his team and the American League. In 18 big-league starts he’s gone 8-6 with a 3.03 earned-run average and struck out 113 batters in 113 innings.
Against him, opposing batters are hitting .198.
With his family in the Dominican Republic, Pineda decided to share his All-Star adventure with his Seattle roommate – bullpen coach Jaime Navarro. When someone asked Felix if he was going to look after his 22-year-old teammate, he feigned shock.
“Look at him! He’s too big to take care of,” Hernandez said.
What did Pineda know about the All-Star Game?
“I watched it growing up,” he said.
Pineda is replacing Justin Verlander, who started for the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
Wedge and Willis had a few variations but have decided upon their post All-Star break rotation.
In order, it will be Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Felix Hernandez, Blake Beavan and Pineda.
Beavan’s spot in the rotation will hold until Erik Bedard’s left-knee strain has adequately healed – and tentatively, Bedard is expected to start the third series after the break.
As for giving rookie Pineda more rest in the second half, Wedge said the team will use scheduled days off to give him more time between starts, and limit his innings in those starts when possible.
“We want to give him enough rest to sustain him,” Wedge said, “whether that’s a day here and there, a couple of days or even more than that.”
ANOTHER 3-BALL WALK
For the second time in eight days, the Mariners were victims of a three-ball walk – this time when Hernandez was facing the Angels’ Bobby Abreu on Sunday and plate umpire Gerry Davis lost track of the count.
At Safeco Field last week, Doug Fister was victimized by a three-ball walk, and that baserunner wound up scoring the only run of the game in a 1-0 loss to San Diego.
This time, the Mariners were aware of the count.
“I knew it was only 3-1 to Abreu,” Wedge said, “but I told our coaches, I don’t want to pitch to him with a 3-1 count, anyway – I think Abreu is their best hitter. I thought since it worked against us last time, maybe we can make it work for us this time.”
On the mound, Hernandez knew, too.
“I thought, ‘That’s ball three,’ on the pitch when he walked, but I got the next two guys and it didn’t hurt us,” Hernandez said.
Seattle is off for the All-Star break, then opens a series at Safeco Field on Thursday with the Texas Rangers.