Sports with Art Thiel
9:00 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Mariner presence won't be felt All-Star Game

Two Mariner pitchers have been elected to the American League All-Star team. However, KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says, neither is expected to play in the game on Tuesday in Phoenix.

Adding insult to injury: One Mariner who's an All-Star veteran was left off the roster this year Ichiro Suzuki.

New rule, new baby likely to keep elected Mariners out of game

 

Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and closer Brandon League were elected to this year's American League All-Star team, but they're not expected to play.

Art says Felix is expected to play this Sunday, which would keep him from playing in Tuesday's All-Star game. A new rule in Major League Baseball this year says any starting pitcher who plays the Sunday before the Tuesday All-Star Game, can't play in the All-Star Game.

"It's a safety rule. They don't want the manager putting into the game a rival pitcher who could get hurt by pitching on one day's rest."

But Felix still has the honor of being elected an All-Star. So does closer Brandon League.

However, League's wife is pregnant with their first child and due to give birth next week. League has said he plans to spend the All-Star break by her side. Art says there is still a chance that other Mariners could be chosen to take their place.

Ichiro not an All-Star this year

One Mariner who was not elected to the All-Star team for the first time in 10 years is Ichiro Suzuki.

Art says it's sad for Mariner fans and for Ichiro, who is said to have enjoyed the annual event very much. You'll recall he hit the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history in 2007. Art says Ichiro wasn't the only one having fun in the All-Stars:

"A lot of players tell stories about how funny Ichiro is and the jokes he tells and the weird clothes he wears. They like to see Ichiro there and he enjoys the experience. But it's not going to happen this year."

Ichiro didn't make the cut simply because he's hitting .274 with only one homerun, and his range has been reduced in right field.

"He's not the same player he was and so I don't think there's any dismay among people who watch the game. He doesn't deserve to be there."

The Mariners and Ichiro have slumped considerably since 2001 when they won 116 games, and Ichiro was the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Sign of the times?

Ichiro kept out of the All-Star team for the first time in a decade comes at a time of major transition for the Mariners. They're calling up a lot of young players (Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley, Carlos Peguero) who are outperforming veterans like Ichiro.

A lot of baseball observers say Ichiro is declining physically due to his age (37). But Art says he's learned not to give up on Ichiro.

"It could be that he revives himself after getting rested in the All-Star break. He could go on a tear and he could get back to 200 hits. It's not impossible. I've seen enough from this guy never to foreclose on the possibilities for Ichiro Suzuki."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.