Lester named an All-Star, Uehara an alternate

Lester named an All-Star, Uehara an alternate
July 6, 2014, 7:30 pm
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BOSTON -- The Red Sox will have at least one player -- and likely two -- joining manager John Farrell in Minnesota next week as members of the American League All-Star team.

Jon Lester has been chosen by Farrell to represent the Red Sox in the Midsummer Classic, and Koji Uehara will be a replacement pitcher if one of the pitchers selected to the 13-man A.L. pitching staff opts not to participate.

As manager of the A.L. All-Star team, Farrell had seven selections of his own to help round out the 34-man roster, and he used one of them on his Red Sox ace.

"Jon Lester and Koji have pitched All-Star caliber baseball this entire first half of the season," Farrell said. "When you look at what Jon has been able to do in terms of where he stacks up with other starters -- in the top five or top six in most pitching categories -- he has earned the selection."

Lester made yet another sparkling start on Saturday in Game 1 of the Sox's doubleheader against the Orioles to pad his All-Star resume. He went eight innings strong, scattering five hits, striking out seven and walking none in the 3-2 walk-off win.

The lefty's record sits at a relatively pedestrian 9-7, but he is in the middle of one of the best stretches of his career.

Lester hasn't allowed an earned run in two starts and now has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts. He's allowed four earned runs combined in his last five starts for a 0.96 ERA.

"Obviously honored," Lester said. "Obviously it's a big honor to rep the Red Sox and go to the All-Star Game and play a game with a lot of the great players in this game. Fortunate to be a part of it."

Before Lester's start on Saturday, Farrell said this is the best season he's ever seen out of Lester, and he has a point: Lester is seventh in the A.L. in ERA, fourth in innings pitched, seventh in strikeouts and tenth in WHIP.

Dustin Pedroia and Lester have been Red Sox teammates since 2007, and came up together in the Red Sox minor league system before that. Even after Sunday's 7-6 extra-inning loss, Pedroia beamed about his pitcher.

"I'm proud of him," he said. "We played together a long time. He's pretty special to all of us. What he brings to our team every time he takes the ball. We've been through a lot together so we're all proud of him."

Lester was also named an All-Star in 2010 and 2011.

Uehara has proved himself as a top closer in baseball for the second consecutive season through 2014's first half. He has posted 18 saves with a 1.31 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. 

"I still can't say that I will be honored or anything because I haven't actually made the team," Uehara said. "Even last year I had a chance but wasn't able to. I'd like to comment once I actually make the team."

Last season, Uehara was eligible to be the last player voted to the A.L. All-Star roster via a late online vote. This would be the 39-year-old's first career All-Star Game. 

"He should be on there," Pedroia said. "Every chance we get to run him out there with the lead, you've got a great feeling. He just saved us the World Series so we wouldn't have anybody else out there for us."

Uehara, who was an eight-time All-Star in his native Japan before becoming joining MLB, said he would not be disappointed if he did not make the team in the end.

"No not at all," he said through team interpreter CJ Matsumoto. "I have some things to do during the All-Star break myself."

Then Uehara himself chimed in: "Play golf."

John Farrell said after the game that Uehara would be "next up" if and when another hurler -- such as a starter scheduled to pitch next Sunday -- declares himself unavailable for the game.

The Red Sox manager did not say how he would use either Lester or Uehara, assuming Uehara will be added. But Farrell did admit that he expected Uehara to be an option out of the A.L. bullpen as the closer. 

"Hopefully we’ve got a need in the ninth inning," Farrell said. "Certainly he’ll be a strong candidate."