Hillenbrand, Halladay get All-Star nods
Toronto's ace, DH are bound for Midsummer Classic
BOSTON -- The word is in and the stars are out. The Blue Jays on Sunday learned that they'll have two representatives at this year's All-Star Game, when Roy Halladay and Shea Hillenbrand were both named to the American League squad.
"Doc and Shea," said John Gibbons, Toronto's manager. "Shea got voted in by the players and coaches. It's well deserved."
Halladay wasn't much of a surprise, but he was also voted in by his peers. In fact, he got more votes (289) than any other AL pitcher. With good reason: Following Sunday's start, the right-hander led the league in ERA (2.33), innings pitched (139) and complete games (five).
He is also second in wins (12) and third in strikeouts (104). This will be Halladay's third All-Star berth in the last four years, with the lone exception his injury-plagued season in 2004.
"Regardless of what your injuries are, you always question how you're going to come back from it," he said. "To have that in the past and feel like it hasn't affected me is nice."
Hillenbrand's inclusion, meanwhile, was an unexpected development. The designated hitter hit .390 in April to help the Jays garner their first winning record (13-12) in the opening month since 2001. Hillenbrand has filled in at both corner infield slots, but his batting average has steadily worked back down over the last two months.
Still, Hillenbrand has reason to be thrilled. He's had a long, hard road between All-Star Games, a path that has taken him through two new organizations and two positions. Hillenbrand sees his election as a referendum on his big-league status, and he was clearly pleased to be honored by his peers.
"I had scouts go to my house when I was getting drafted, and I had two or three scouts say I'd never make an All-Star team in the big leagues," he said. "That's more gratifying to me, to go out and continue to prove people wrong -- people that have doubts in their mind. You can't take that away from me.
"You can take the game away from me, but you can't take the two All-Star Games away from me."
The Jays only had one All-Star last year, when they limped into the All-Star break with a 39-49 record. This year, they had a 42-40 record when the teams were announced, underlining the stark contrast. Gibbons said he was pleased to have two players in the Midsummer Classic -- as a sign of respect, if nothing else.
"I thought all along that Shea had a good shot to make it," he said. "The thing is, he kind of came with the rap that he couldn't play defense. He's played third base as well as anyone I've seen this year. Wherever he got that rap, I don't know. I don't think it's deserved."
Boston manager Terry Francona has the final say, though, and Toronto's ace did his part by pitching the Jays past the Red Sox on Sunday.
"Knowing him the way I do, I don't think he cares," said Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun. "I think he's more focused on winning for the Toronto Blue Jays than he is for the American League. It's an honor just to be selected, and I think that's probably his attitude.
"Knowing him, he's not a big fan of all the personal accolades and all the attention. I think he becomes a little uncomfortable with it."
Sure enough, Halladay greeted all the questions with a standard response. He said that he was pleased to be recognized as an All-Star and unconcerned about who would start the game.
"Either way, I don't think it would break my heart," said Halladay. "I know there's a lot of good pitchers out there right now -- guys that are probably deserving. I'll just keep going about my business, and if it turns out that way, it's a great honor."
The All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12, at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.