Hunter, Fuentes deservedly honored
Angels' top hitter and top reliever named to AL All-Star team
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will be represented by Torii Hunter, their center fielder and centerpiece, and closer Brian Fuentes in the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game in St. Louis' Busch Stadium on July 14.
Hunter, a driving force behind an Angels team beset by tragedy (the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart) and multiple injuries, will be making his third appearance in the Midsummer Classic.
Hunter, a Gold Glove winner eight consecutive seasons, was selected on the players' ballot after the starting outfield spots in the fans' balloting went to Jason Bay of Boston, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Texas' Josh Hamilton.
"It's always an honor to be recognized by your peers," Hunter said. "It means a lot. To be there with the best in the game, the best in your profession, it's something any player would love to experience. I've been blessed to go twice, and I'm looking forward to this one, representing the Angels. I love my team, and this is a great honor."
Fuentes, who leads the Majors with 24 saves, is making his first All-Star Game appearance for the American League after being selected three times to the National League All-Star staff when he graced the Colorado Rockies' staff.
"It's always an honor to go, especially after not going last year," Fuentes said. "I wouldn't say it was disappointing, but you realize how special it is. It's not something that's automatic so to be able to have the opportunity to go again is nice.
"I never set goals like that, that I really have no control over. In one sense, yeah you have a little bit of control over it by your performance but it's not voted on by fans. It's chosen by your peers and the coaches. I have no control over that. I don't set that as a goal, but it's definitely nice."
Signed to a free-agent contract after former Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez signed with the New York Mets, Fuentes has settled in as a stabilizing force at the back end of the Angels' bullpen. K-Rod will be pitching for the NL in the All-Star Game.
Fuentes was one of AL manager Joe Maddon's choices for the All-Star squad. The man from Merced, Calif., is one of only two lefties on the 13-man staff, joining Mark Buehrle of the White Sox.
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
The Red Sox, with six selections, led all AL teams. There were four members of Maddon's reigning AL champion Rays selected, along with three players each from the Yankees, Twins and Tigers.
Joining Hunter among AL outfield reserves chosen by the players in their balloting are Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford and Detroit's Curtis Granderson.
Hunter, an All-Star Game starter in 2002 with the Twins -- the first Minnesota player so named since Kirby Puckett in 1995 -- made one of the most memorable plays of his career. He robbed Barry Bonds of a home run, scaling the center-field wall at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Hunter also appeared in the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco.
While making a series of game-saving catches, risking serious injury crashing repeatedly into walls, Hunter has been the Angels' most consistently productive offensive force. He leads the team in homers, runs batted in, slugging percentage and total bases and is on a pace to establish career highs in all of those categories, as well as batting average and on-base percentage.
"I'd hate to think where we'd be without Torii," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's doing everything. From defense to the batter's box to running the bases to what he does in the clubhouse. I think it's an understatement to say he's an important part of the club. This guy's special -- and we're glad to have him."
Fuentes pitched one perfect inning in the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. After a slow start this season, he has emerged as a lights-out closer in the Angels' rebuilt bullpen, providing stability and leadership.
"Brian has done a tremendous job," Scioscia said. "He's a total professional in the way he goes about his work. We're fortunate to have replaced one great closer with another."
Fuentes' business-like manner and even-keel demeanor have impressed everyone associated with the club.
"He's lights-out," Hunter said. "Brian just comes in and takes care of business, gets the job done. There's nothing more you can ask for from your closer."
Fuentes' spring was disrupted by a back ailment and a family matter, but once he found his groove, he's been remarkably dependable. He has not allowed a run in 21 of his past 23 outings, his ERA falling from 7.88 on May 1 to 3.38 after he closed out a victory over the Orioles on Sunday with a scoreless ninth.
"We scuffled out of the gate as a club," Fuentes said. "A lot of people in our bullpen are pitching well now. Having a veteran presence down there with Justin [Speier], Darren [Oliver] and myself, you get through it. It's a long season, and you learn how to take it as it comes.
"As a closer, there's no time to dwell on the bad games -- or the good games. My biggest save is always going to be the next one."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.