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Beltre finally in select company

Third baseman receives first nod

By Robert Mays
Globe Correspondent / July 5, 2010

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The surprise was evident in his voice.

John Lackey just took for granted that 48 home runs and 121 RBIs would mean a trip to the All-Star Game. But for Adrian Beltre, it didn’t. Despite finishing second in the 2004 National League MVP voting, Beltre is only now headed to his first All-Star Game, named yesterday as an American League reserve for the game July 13 in Anaheim, Calif.

“He had that huge year in LA,’’ Lackey said following the Red Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Orioles yesterday at Fenway Park. “I figured he made it that year. I guess he got [snubbed]. I don’t know.’’

Playing for the Dodgers in 2004, Beltre had 22 home runs and 56 RBIs at the break. But when the selections were made, Scott Rolen and Mike Lowell were the third basemen chosen. Rolen had 80 RBIs at that point, and Lowell had 20 homers and was slugging over .570.

However, the season was enough to earn Beltre a contract with the Mariners worth $64 million over five years.

Beltre’s production in Seattle never came close to the year he put together in 2004. In five seasons with the Mariners, Beltre never hit more than 26 home runs, and last year he hit only eight while batting .265 over 111 games.

This offseason, the Red Sox gave Beltre a one-year, $9 million deal in a move that seemed to be another step toward putting together a championship-caliber defense. But with the move from cavernous Safeco Field, Beltre is on pace for the second-best offensive season of his career.

His .341 batting average ranks third in the majors, and his .546 slugging percentage puts him on pace for the second-best slugging season of his career. Beltre stroked a double off the left-field wall yesterday. With production like that, he wasn’t leaving this year’s All-Star selection up to chance.

“I think if there’s one guy in this clubhouse that should be a part of the All-Star Game, it’s Adrian,’’ said David Ortiz, who was also named to the AL squad as a reserve. “He’s been doing an unbelievable job.’’

“His season has been unbelievable, especially in this being his first year in this atmosphere,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who was named as a reserve but will miss the game because of a broken left foot. “It’s fun to watch.’’

The atmosphere was one of the questions surrounding Beltre heading into this season. For any player that moves into a market with the type of pressure Boston brings, there are concerns about how well he will adjust. But Beltre says what it takes to make an All-Star team is independent of where someone plays.

“If you’re going to be an All-Star, it doesn’t matter where you’re at,’’ he said.

One difference about putting together an All-Star-caliber season in Boston is that instead of putting up empty numbers for a team buried in the standings, Beltre has been an integral part of a club that is 16 games over .500 and right in the mix in the AL East. Beltre said that with the Sox’ rough start and all the injuries they’ve had to endure lately, the second half should be even better.

“We started the season a little slow, like everybody knows, and we’ve had some key injuries so far,’’ he said. “And we’ve been able to stay close. Hopefully when those guys come back, we can do a lot better.’’

Beltre knew this year was a chance to come back and show what he could do after an injury-plagued 2009, but when he came to Boston, this type of start was not the first thing on his mind.

“My goal this year was to be healthy and help this team to win, get to the playoffs, and see how far we could go,’’ Beltre said. “After that, whatever comes was going to be extra. I’m really excited to be in the All-Star Game.’’

Robert Mays can be reached at rmays@globe.com.

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