With the 79th All-Star Game scheduled to be played in Yankee Stadium in July, the designated hitter is back on the American League ballot for the first time in three seasons. The last two All-Star Games were played in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, where no DH was used, which meant David Ortiz was listed as a first baseman.
Because only one player per team can be listed at each position, that meant Kevin Youkilis was left off the ballot last season in a year in which he went into the break batting .328 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs. Ortiz was the easy winner at first base, and Youkilis was passed over for reliever Hideki Okajima in the vote-in competition for the team's 32d player, Okajima prevailing in the online vote.
This year, Youkilis is on the ballot as a first baseman, with Ortiz listed at DH. The Sox have All-Star candidates at all nine positions (pitchers are chosen by the managers in consultation with league officials). Coco Crisp is one of the three Sox outfielders on the ballot, with Manny Ramírez and J.D. Drew. Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury is not on the ballot.
As manager of the 2007 World Series champions, Terry Francona will manage the AL All-Stars for the second time. Balloting began at Fenway Park last night and will continue until June 25 (the Sox' last home date before the June 29 cutoff).
Last season, Ortiz was the only Sox player elected a starter, but he was joined by five teammates: Okajima, Ramírez, third baseman Mike Lowell, and pitchers Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Assuming he pitches well in the first half, Beckett figures to have a chance to become the first Sox pitcher since Derek Lowe in 2002 to start an All-Star Game.
Looking a little thin
This was one night in which it would not have been in the Sox' best interests for Ramírez to make a headfirst slide into home plate, Crisp to run into a wall, or Brandon Moss
to topple into a bullpen. With Drew (quadriceps) and Ellsbury (groin) unavailable, Francona was without a bona fide backup outfielder. In a pinch, Julio Lugo
would have been pressed into service as an outfielder, which already has happened this season, for an inning April 20 against Texas. Drew and Ellsbury are day to day. The only healthy position players on the Sox' bench were catcher Kevin Cash
and infielder Jed Lowrie
. . . Reliever Bryan Corey
cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple A Pawtucket . . . Since 1956, Pedro Martínez
(2000) and Beckett (2007) are the only Sox pitchers to have gone 5-0 through April 30. Daisuke Matsuzaka
(seven scoreless innings) didn't factor into the decision last night, leaving him 4-0 . . . Justin Masterson
, making his first start for Double A Portland since holding the Angels to two hits in six innings in his big-league debut last Thursday, lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles' affiliate. Masterson gave up five hits, walked three, and was charged with four runs . . . Lowell's fifth-inning double was his first extra-base hit in 11 games (36 at-bats) this season.
Leading the way
Ramírez, who singled and walked and scored the deciding run in last night's 2-1 win, led the Sox in hitting in the season's first full month with a .343 average, and also led the club with six home runs for the month (plus two games in March). Ortiz, who hit his fifth home run last night, led the club with 21 RBIs, but his .184 average was easily his worst since coming to the Sox in 2003. Ramírez's .410 on-base percentage led the club, though Ellsbury, at .396, was close behind. Youkilis (.304) and Dustin Pedroia
(.303) also were regulars who batted better than .300; Ortiz led the club with 15 walks, with Drew and Youkilis both walking 14 times and Ellsbury 13. Ellsbury had eight of the team's 20 steals; Sox base runners were caught just four times. Ellsbury's 20 runs also led the club, with Drew and Ramírez second with 18. Matsuzaka was the team's big winner. His 2.52 ERA was best among the starters taking a regular turn, and he had the most strikeouts, 32. Papelbon finished the month with two wins, eight saves, and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings.
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