CINCINNATI — The Seattle Mariners’ 1-2 punch of starting pitchers will take their act to the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field.
Maringers manager Eric Wedge called his players together before Saturday’s game to announce that Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma had been selected to represent Seattle on the American League All-Star team, managed by Detroit’s Jim Leyland. The two pitchers were selected by a vote of their fellow players.
“It’s always special getting to do that,” Wedge said. “It was just nice to see how genuinely excited their teammates were for them.”
This is getting to be a regular occurrence for Hernandez. It’s his fourth selection, but the excitement hasn’t worn off.
“It feels special,” Hernandez said. “It’s an honor to be part of the All-Star Game again. It’s always fun.”
Hernandez (8-4, 2.69 ERA) ranked second in the AL in ERA after 18 starts. He has 130 strikeouts (fourth in the AL) in 1232/3 innings while walking 24.
Hernandez got a wide smile talking about Iwakuma’s selection.
“He deserved it, man,” Hernandez said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the American League. He should be there. For sure.”
The shy and reserved Iwakuma couldn’t hide his excitement.
“You can see my smile,” he said through translator Antony Suzuki. “Very, very happy. I was very nervous at the same time.”
Even with a couple of less-than-stellar outings recently, Iwakuma has a 7-4 record with a 2.60 ERA (first in the AL) in 18 starts. In 121 innings, he has 103 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Still, he tried not to get caught up thinking about it.
“I tried to not be too aware of the situation,” Iwakuma said. “You want to stay in your routine and pitch your game on your game day, so you don’t want to think about too much stuff away from what you’ve been doing the last couple of months. But I’m very happy things turned out this way. I’m very grateful.”
The veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball was selected for three all-star games their. But this selection holds meaning.
“There’s a big difference being an all-star in Japan and being an all-star here in the major leagues,” he said. “This is a much bigger league and we have all the elite players and all the talent. That’s above NPB, so there’s a special meaning to that.”
Unfortunately, Iwakuma probably won’t be able to pitch in the game July 16. He is scheduled to start for the Mariners on Sunday and Leyland has said he won’t pitch any starter who pitches on Sunday.
“Jim’s a smart guy,” Wedge said. “He’s not going to put anyone in harm’s way.”
“It’s unfortunate not to be able to pitch, but at the same time, you want to enjoy every moment of being an All-Star — enjoy the atmosphere with all these elite players,” Iwakuma said.
Hernandez was in the same situation last year. This year, he’s ready to get on the mound.
“Oh yeah, I think I’ll be able to pitch,” he said.
FRANKLIN’S KNEE HURTING
Nick Franklin was not moving particularly well in the clubhouse before the game Saturday. His right knee looked swollen.
Seattle’s second baseman fouled a bunt off the inside of his knee cap in his second at-bat Friday night, and he was out of the lineup on Saturday.
“As of right now, it’s swollen and I’m working on getting the swelling down as much as possible and as quickly as possible,” Franklin said. “Hopefully, I can be on the field soon.”
Franklin made an appearance Saturday as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, striking out. He was limping on his way to and from the plate.
It could be a few days before he’s ready to start at second base.
There was some concern when Wedge allowed and encouraged Franklin to stay in the game after the injury.
“Because it’s going to be part of it,” Wedge said. “If you’re going to be an everyday guy, you’ve got to play through things like that. It’s just part of it. When you play every day, and you get nicked and a little banged up from time to time, you’ve got to play through it.”
LIDDI TO ORIOLES
The Mariners traded third baseman/first baseman Alex Liddi and their No. 3 signing slot for international players to Baltimore for the Orioles’ No. 2 international signing slot.
Liddi will likely head to Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Va.
Liddi, 24, played in eight games with the Mariners this season, getting one hit in 17 at-bats. He spent most of this season with Triple-A Tacoma, batting .263 (63-for-240) with 11 home runs and 43 RBI.
Liddi was designated for assignment when the Mariners called up Brad Miller. The team had 10 days to release, trade or outright Liddi. With the Orioles or another team likely to claim him off waivers, the Mariners picked up some money on the international market instead of letting him go for free.
The Mariners signed Liddi, who was the first Italian-born and developed player to appear in a major league baseball game, as an international free agent on Sept. 9, 2005.
In the final game of the series at Great American Ball Park, at 10:10 a.m. Sunday, the Mariners will send left-hander Joe Saunders (6-8, 4.74 ERA) out to oppose right-hander Bronson Arroyo (7-6. 3.50). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8483 blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish