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Mikolas' amazing return earns All-Star nod

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three years ago, Miles Mikolas' baseball future seemed tenuous. His career sat at a crossroads. To prolong it, Mikolas sought answers a hemisphere away.

Flash forward to the present day, in which Mikolas is an All-Star. Major League Baseball announced Sunday that Mikolas will serve on the National League's pitching staff for the July 17 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park. There he will join the game's elite as the Cardinals' lone representative.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three years ago, Miles Mikolas' baseball future seemed tenuous. His career sat at a crossroads. To prolong it, Mikolas sought answers a hemisphere away.

Flash forward to the present day, in which Mikolas is an All-Star. Major League Baseball announced Sunday that Mikolas will serve on the National League's pitching staff for the July 17 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Nationals Park. There he will join the game's elite as the Cardinals' lone representative.

The selection caps a remarkable return to the big leagues for Mikolas, who has emerged as one of baseball's most effective starters after spending three seasons in Japan.

"It's a dream come true," Mikolas said. "I just wanted to come over here and do good, whether that was flying under the radar, or on the radar, or over it."

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

Consider him a secret no more. The righty ranks among the NL leaders in innings (109 1/3), wins (nine), earned run average, WHIP (1.03), opponent batting average (.232) and walk rate (1.4 per nine innings). Overall, Mikolas is 9-3 with a 2.63 ERA and 3.28 FIP in 17 starts.

"It's an elite group and each have their own individual stories," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Miles has been in that [All-Star] conversation since early on, and I think he should be very proud of stepping back in here, wanting to get back to this league, wanting to make an impact, and to be talked about in that way. I'm always happy to watch guys come in and have a story that's unique. Obviously he's helping us in a big way."

All of which has made him the value buy of the offseason and the unlikely anchor of the Cardinals' rotation. Signed to a two-year, $15.5 million deal this winter, Matheny has called Mikolas the "horse" of a staff that's been forced to endure long stretches without Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright.

It's a label few would've bestowed on Mikolas early in his career, when the righty, then a hard but unpolished thrower, bounced between clubs and roles over parts of three seasons. But he reinvented himself abroad, pitching to a 31-13 record and 2.18 ERA in 62 starts for the NPB's Yomiuri Giants.

He now plucks clinically from a five-pitch mix, which he commands as well as any starter on the Senior Circuit. He's issued just 17 walks in 17 starts, fewer than all but one qualified NL starter. Six of his outings have come without a base on balls.

"The best way I look at it is, I was making good pitches in Japan and getting good results," Mikolas said. "If I could make similar pitches here, hopefully I could enjoy similar results."

Mikolas learned of his selection in a small ceremony Sunday in the Cardinals clubhouse, which he is one of the most gregarious members of. He said he's excited for the All-Star Game because "you get to goof around and have fun with guys, which is kind of right in my ballpark." In between starts this season, Mikolas has started facial hair trends and distributed T-shirts -- with his face on them -- to his teammates.

He'll have an elite bunch of new ones come next week, when he joins a temporary staff alongside Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, Jon Lester, Mike Foltynewicz, Jacob deGrom and Patrick Corbin.

On Tuesday, while watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.

The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.

For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas