The MLB All-Star Game is a week away, and on Sunday, we were treated to the full roster unveilings for both the AL and NL. Unsurprisingly, there is some solid Rays representation on both sides. Here’s a quick recap.
The one returning Ray this year is the starting shortstop for the National League, Trea Turner, who’s making his second appearance in a row at the midsummer classic. Turner is one of four Dodgers who’ll be showing out for their team in their home stadium in L.A. this year, and that hometown, big-city bump might just be what lifted him over Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson for the main gig. Not that Turner isn’t deserving in his own right, of course: He’s hitting .301 with 11 dingers in his first full season for the Dodgers and, for those who care about such things, he’s the RBI leader for the team with the best record in the NL. That’s all-star material right there, and it doesn’t even account for his thrilling confidence on the basepaths. There’s an intriguing subplot to follow, too: the reunion of Turner with Nationals all-star selection Juan Soto ahead of Turner’s impending free agency.
Over on the American League side, we have a couple of Rays making their all-star debuts. At first base, backing up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is Luis Arráez of the Minnesota Twins. While the 25-year-old showed hitting talent from the moment he stepped into the league in 2019, his ability to make contact and get on base has become undeniable this year as his team has flipped the AL Central upside down. As a .348 hitter who sprays the ball all over the field and strikes out less often than anyone in baseball, his style of play is tremendously appealing to a certain kind of purist fan, and though he’s not a household Ray just yet, the game next week could be a big opportunity for Arráez to win over some new converts. Here he is getting congratulated for the honor by his manager, Rocco Baldelli, at a team meeting before their game on Sunday.
“I almost cried there,” Arráez said of the moment. “My heart started getting fast, I said, ‘OK, relax. It’s your day today, so just enjoy it.'”
Last but not least we had the lone selection from the Tampa Bay Rays, Shane McClanahan. This one was a no-brainer, because the second-year lefty has been lights-out in 17 starts for his team in the first half, as if the memories of last year’s season-ending meltdown against the Red Sox light a fire under him every time he steps onto the mound. He leads the AL in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP while also demonstrating ridiculous control by walking just 1.64 hitters per nine innings. And if there are few questions about his work, there are even fewer about what he’ll wear on the red carpet: his lone suit, given to him by Chris Archer last year.
“I’ve worn it one time to a wedding, and I’m going to probably, hopefully break it out,’’ McClanahan said. “It’s about the only nice piece of clothing I have, so I kind of have to. I’m excited.’’
He’ll be a lot of people’s frontrunner to be the AL’s starting pitcher, and even though Justin Verlander and Shohei Ohtani would draw more TV interest, from a results standpoint it’s hard to argue anyone deserves it more. What a great moment that would be for Rays everywhere.