Jays’ Donaldson, Encarnacion, Estrada get all-star nods: Griffin

Jays’ Donaldson, Encarnacion, Estrada get all-star nods: Griffin
The Blue Jays will have three players, third baseman Josh Donaldson, designated-hitter Edwin Encarnacion and starting pitcher Marco Estrada at the all-star game in San Diego on July 12. For Donaldson and Encarnacion, it will be their third all-star appearance each, while for the excited 32-year-old Estrada it will be the first time he has been named to represent his league.

“It’s been a roller-coaster,” Estrada said of his two seasons with the Jays. “I didn’t know what was going to happen after the 2014 season, then bouncing back the way I did. I had a lot of help getting here and I’m extremely thankful. It’s been a roller-coaster ride, but it’s been a fun one. I’m very, very happy to be here and, obviously, representing Toronto. It’s a good day and it’s my birthday.”

Donaldson, last season’s American League MVP, and Encarnacion, who leads the majors in RBIs this year, were both honoured in the players vote that determines the second team after fans have voted in the starters. Left fielder Michael Saunders has a chance to join his teammates in the final fan vote. There are five players from each league that are nominated and an online poll that ends on Friday will determine whether the Victoria, B.C., native becomes the 15th Canadian-born player in the Midsummer Classic.

There is the possibility that Estrada will attend the game but will not be able to pitch because of his wonky back that was injected with cortisone on Monday. If so, there’s a chance for another Jays pitcher to be his replacement on the active roster, either Aaron Sanchez or J.A. Happ. It’s not necessary that a replacement for an injured player is from the same club, but in this case both men are deserving.

“It’s obviously something that I don’t want to do, I want to be able to pitch,” Estrada said. “This is my first time and it could be my only time. The (Jays have) to come first and if I can’t pitch for the team right now, then I shouldn’t pitch anywhere else.

“We want to make sure I do feel good and ready to go for my next outing. We’re still waiting for the cortisone to kind of kick in and we also don’t want to push anything. You do have to be smart about this. There is a second half to play and hopefully the season goes even further than that. It might be wise for me to just take a few days off and if that means I have to not pitch in the all-star game, then I might have to do it.”

Estrada is one of only five starting pitchers on the AL roster, along with Cole Hamels (Rangers), Danny Salazar (Indians), Chris Sale (White Sox) and Steven Wright (Red Sox). There are nine relievers on the roster and, with home-field advantage for the World Series riding on the outcome, makes sense.

But if it’s the stars that AL fans want to see in San Diego, they will miss out on the likes of David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander and Chris Archer. None, though, are pitching well enough to warrant inclusion. Among the big-name position players missing will be Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, Esteban Beltre, Albert Pujols and Victor Martinez. The original concept of the all-star game in 1933, of course, was for fans to see the stars that they didn’t ordinarily see.

There are several things to remember, before anyone becomes righteously indignant about Major League Baseball’s process of choosing AL and NL all-star rosters. As in most sports tempests contained in teapots, when it comes to the final 34 man rosters, there is no right or wrong.

First, remember that the fan vote for the starting lineups is a selection, not an election. Over the course of a couple of months, every email address in the world is allowed to vote 35 times. Does someone voting in May really know who is most deserving of starting in San Diego on July 12?

Second, the players on active 25-man rosters of all 30 teams are also asked to vote on all the same positions as the fans, plus to determine the first eight pitchers in each league — five starters and three relievers — which sometimes can also be a popularity, or at times, even an unpopularity contest.

Third, in the AL, with the fans selecting nine starters and with the players ballot determining the next nine position players plus eight pitchers, 26 of the 34 roster spots are taken before the manager and MLB fill out the respective rosters.

Fourth, there is the final vote, giving MLB one more chance to get a sponsor involved. That’s how the Jays raised the bar for (Steve) Delabar in 2013, with team officials hooking up with another candidate in the NL and asking their voters to unite in some sort of a horsehide inter-league election-rigging.

The final problem? With every team required to have an all-star representative, the final six AL players left to the manager, in this case, the Royals’ Ned Yost, may be whittled down even more by the ASG need to fill a team need. As such, Yost on Monday said that he only had four to five decisions to make.

These are not the final rosters, with injuries and pitchers starting games on Sunday coming into play, so relax for the moment and enjoy the process.
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