Yelich, Contreras to rep Crew as All-Star starters

July 7th, 2024

DENVER -- would never say this himself, so his Brewers teammate said it for him when they were both named All-Star Game starters on July 3.

“He has everything. He has MVPs and All-Stars,” Contreras said. “But I think this means a lot because I think he’s going to feel like, ‘I’m back.’ I think that’s what he’s going to say.”

Perhaps Yelich would say that in his head.

But even Contreras knows he is too humble to say it aloud.

“I think he’s back and he’s healthy,” Contreras said. “And that’s good for baseball.”

Both players have been good for the Brewers, and so Contreras and Yelich will be the first Milwaukee duo to start the Midsummer Classic since three players -- center fielder Carlos Gómez, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and third baseman Aramis Ramirez -- started in 2014. Contreras and Yelich earned the nod by virtue of winning the second phase of fan balloting to determine the starters.

For now, they are the Brewers’ lone All-Stars. Yelich had high hopes for second-year Brewers shortstop Brice Turang and Milwaukee relievers were rooting for Trevor Megill and Bryan Hudson, but none were among the pitchers and reserves initially unveiled on Sunday after player ballots were tallied and MLB filled in the remaining roster spots.

"You can’t do anything more than what you do on the field and if you get recognized for it, great,” Yelich said. “We know [their contributions] and I think people playing us know. I’ll still be holding out hope for some of the guys here, because we’re definitely deserving of more than two All-Stars."

Contreras topped Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto to start at catcher. Yelich came out on top of a field of six finalists in the outfield, three of whom --Yelich and the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. and Jurickson Profar -- made the cut as starters. The 2024 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard is set for July 16 at Globe Life Field in Texas.

For Contreras, it represents the latest step in a steady rise from Braves All-Star in 2022 (he was in the starting lineup as the NL’s designated hitter), to one of baseball’s best all-around catchers in ‘23 after a trade from Atlanta to Milwaukee, to one of the elite players with a chance to appear on ballots for the NL MVP Award later this year if he continues to produce.

“I’m definitely very happy about it,” Contreras said. “This is what I work hard for in the offseason is to complete this goal. I see this as a blessing and some of the hard work paying off a little bit.”

For Yelich, it’s been more of a winding road to his second All-Star Game start.

“It's been definitely an interesting journey for me the last few years,” he said. “A lot of ups and downs, and that's baseball in a nutshell, really. … I've had really good moments, I've had some tough years when I probably didn't do as well as I wanted to or knew I could have. I battled some things, and it's kind of just came full circle. So, it's pretty cool.”

After making his first All-Star team in 2018, the year he was acquired by Milwaukee in a franchise-altering trade and became the fourth Brewers player to win a league MVP Award, Yelich won the right to start the All-Star Game in ‘19, and he finished runner-up in the MVP race. That earned him a club record-setting contract extension the following March, a nine-year, $215 million deal.

For two years, Yelich made hitting look easy. But he knows as well as anyone that it’s not.

He went from an MLB-best 1.100 OPS in 2019 to .786 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, then .736 in ‘21 and .738 in ‘22. Those are respectable numbers that would satisfy many Major League hitters, especially one like Yelich who can impact games on the basepaths, but he was held to a higher standard.

“I'll be compared to those years for as long as I have a Brewers uniform on my chest,” Yelich said. “If that's right or wrong, who knows? But I understand that that's part of it. For me, I go into every season trying to be the best version of your current self. … That's how I went into this year, just like, 'Hey, I want to keep getting better.’”

This season, at 32, despite missing nearly a month with a bout of the back stiffness that has followed him in recent years, Yelich has returned to elite offensive production. His .329/.403/.500 slash line as of Wednesday’s announcement would make him the league leader in the race for the batting title once Yelich compiles the plate appearances to qualify among the league leaders.

“I can’t say enough about what he’s done for this team,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “The way he’s playing the game and being a leader for our young guys, it’s not just what he’s doing on the field. He deserves to be an All-Star. It’s unbelievable what he’s been doing, and I’m really proud of him.”

“He deserves it,” Contreras echoed. “Everybody knows who Christian Yelich is. Everybody knows what he can do on the field and off the field. He deserves this because he’s killing it and he’s healthy. I always say that’s the biggest thing. If you have your health, you’re going to be good.”

Yelich is feeling healthy enough that he’d consider participating in the Home Run Derby if MLB asks.

So far, that hasn’t happened, he said.