The Mariners’ 1-2 starting pitching punch will take their act to the 2013 Major League All-star Game at Citi Field.
Before Saturday’s game at the Great American Ballpark, Mariners manager Eric Wedge called the team together in the clubhouse to announce that Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma had been selected to represent Seattle on the American League all-star team, managed by Jim Leyland. The two pitchers were selected in the players’ vote.
“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 become a regular occurrence for Hernandez. It’s his fourth selection. But the excitement hasn’t worn off.
“It feels special,” he said. “It’s an honor to be part of the All-Star game again. It’s always fun.”
Hernandez is 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA (second in the AL) in 18 starts. He’s struck out 130 batters (4th in the AL) in 123 2/3 innings pitched 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 less than stellar recent outings, Iwakuma has posted a 7-4 record with a 2.60 ERA (tops in the AL) in 18 starts. In 121 1/3 innings pitched, he’s struck out 103 hitters and walked just 18. He has the second lowest walks per nine innings in the AL at 1.335.
Still, he tried not to get caught up in thinking about it.
“I tried to not be too aware of the situation,” he 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.”
A veteran in the Nippon Professional Baseball, Iwakuma was selected for three all-star games in the league. But this selection means a little more.
“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 won’t be able to pitch in Tuesday’s game. He starts for the Mariners on Sunday and Leyland has said he won’t pitch any starter that pitches on Sunday.
“Jim’s a smart guy,” Wedge said. “He’s not going to put anyone in harm’s way.”
Iwakuma understands the reasoning.
“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.