Duke, Sanchez unable to help NL
Bucs All-Stars enjoy experience despite not playing
ST. LOUIS -- For only the third time in the past 16 years, the Pirates sent two players to the Midsummer Classic. But for the third time in the last seven years, no one from Pittsburgh would actually take the field.
Freddy Sanchez and Zach Duke knew that such a scenario could play out, simply because of the roles that each was filling for the National League squad.
NL manager Charlie Manuel had said before Tuesday night's 80th All Star Game, which the NL dropped, 4-3, to the American League, that he liked Sanchez's defensive versatility, and therefore was saving him in case the game went into extra innings. Sanchez already holds the distinction of being the only player in All-Star history to have played short, third and second.
Similarly, Duke was seen as a capable long-relief option if extra innings were needed for a second successive year. But with AL closer Mariano Rivera pitching a scoreless ninth, no such opportunity presented itself.
"I just know if my name would have been called, I would have gotten ready," Duke said. "If I had got in, it would have been icing on the cake. This was just fine. This has been a great experience."
Duke was one of five NL pitchers not to make an appearance on Tuesday, with Chicago's Ted Lilly, Florida's Josh Johnson, Colorado's Jason Marquis and New York's Johan Santana rounding out the list. Of the Senior Circuit's position players, Sanchez and Houston's Hunter Pence were the only two not to get in.
"I'm not disappointed at all," said Sanchez, who entered the night 0-for-3 in his previous All-Star at-bats. "Just being here and them taking me on the team was good enough for me. I knew my role coming in. They talked to me before the game about trying to get me in later in the game, but in that close of a game, if we had gone extra innings, I would had to have been available."
This was the third All-Star appearance for Sanchez, but the one he called the most rewarding. Coming off a trying 2008 season, in which he never really was fully healthy, Sanchez finds himself at a point in his career where he is adamant not to take an All-Star invite for granted, even one in which he spent the evening as a spectator.
"The way that it all happened -- coming from last year, the work that I put in to get my arm healthy, and the hard work this spring -- I think this one's probably one of the most rewarding, because of all the adversity," Sanchez said. "It was a long year last year and a struggle. This one is the most rewarding as far as battling back and working so hard to get here."
As a result, Sanchez tried to slow down the events of these past two days to be sure to take everything in, along with his wife, Alissa, and two sons, Evan and Ryan.
"The one that was in Pittsburgh [in 2006] was so awesome, but it was so quick," Sanchez said. "The one that was in San Francisco [in '07] went by quick. Here, I wanted to enjoy everything, go to the festivities, and I think I've really done that."
Named as a late injury replacement for the NL team, Duke was well aware that he might experience Tuesday's game entirely from the dugout. That proved to be the case, as Duke was never summoned to begin warming up for the NL squad, which had 13 pitchers. He was available to pitch if needed.
Though the left-hander had hoped that an opportunity to arise, his not getting in wasn't about to take away from the two-day whirlwind experience. On Monday night, he had a front-row seat on the Busch Stadium grass for the Home Run Derby. He participated in the Chevy Red Carpet Parade early Tuesday afternoon, before taking the field with his NL teammates for batting practice a bit later.
"Oh, it's been fast and furious and great," Duke said. "It's tough to imagine all that it entails until you're here. After being here, I want to get back here. Absolutely. There are a bunch of great people here, and it's been such a great experience."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.