Clase, Ramírez to represent Guardians again at All-Star Game

July 2nd, 2023

CHICAGO -- When  learned that he was going to be a first-time All-Star last year around this time, the first words out of his mouth were, “I want to strike everybody out.” Just a few days later, he did exactly that.

Now, he’ll have an opportunity to do it again with his friend and teammate José Ramírez by his side, as the two were named Sunday night to the 2023 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on July 11 in Seattle. This will mark Clase’s second trip to the Midsummer Classic and Ramírez’s fifth.

“Same plan,” Clase said with a smirk and a laugh through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I’m not going to back down. Just going to keep full gas. I want to try to do the same this year.”

Clase’s moment was everything he dreamed it would be last year. He stood on the mound, threw 10 pitches (nine strikes) and mowed down the National League lineup, fanning Garrett Cooper of the Marlins, Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies and Jake Cronenworth of the Padres. Clase became just the sixth pitcher to earn a save and record three or more strikeouts in an All-Star Game appearance, joining Aroldis Chapman (2019) as the only hurlers to do so in just one inning. He’s ready to try to do it again.

“Very happy for him,” Ramírez said through Rivero. “As a fellow Dominican, as a young guy that I see him thrive … it’s really nice to see him achieve what he’s achieved.”

Clase got off to a slower start this season. His velocity was down, and his command wasn’t as sharp as we saw it all through 2022. But through some tweaks in his delivery, he has morphed back into the dominant hurler this team has known him to be. Although he has six blown saves, he also led the Majors in saves (24) and appearances (40) on the day he was selected to the American League team. Despite the hurdles, he was able to stand out as one of the best in the game.

“It’s very special,” Clase said. “It’s one of those life achievements that I set myself to do but especially because I’ve worked really hard towards that goal.”

There seemed to be little doubt that Clase and Ramírez would make it, just like they did last year. The only difference between 2022 and ‘23 is that there won’t be a third Clevelander going with them. This season, there was a strong possibility that Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor, who leads AL first basemen in RBIs, could get his first All-Star nod. But when he didn’t make the roster, Guardians manager Terry Francona decided to just tell Clase and Ramírez the good news individually and meet with Naylor on the side to make sure he knew he has been as impressive as they have.

“I didn’t want him to sit through a congratulatory [meeting for the announcement] because I thought it might hurt him a little bit,” Francona said. “I just wanted to be aware of that.”

Even though Francona has given this message to Clase twice and Ramírez five times now, it never gets old.

“We have so many difficult messages with guys at times when they get sent down or whatever,” Francona said, “so you really try to enjoy the good ones.”

Ramírez has become a lock to be Cleveland’s representative at the All-Star Game every single season. He’s one of the most consistent hitters in the game, owning at least an .800 OPS in each season since 2016. In that span, he has received AL Most Valuable Player votes in six seasons, finishing in the top four of vote-getters four of those times. After starting this year with a .297 average, .886 OPS, 52 RBIs, 21 doubles, four triples and 13 homers in the first 78 games, he was an easy selection as a reserve for the AL roster.

“I’m very happy for it, and I’m very thankful for all the players that voted me in,” Ramírez said. “I’m very thankful to God for this opportunity to be in the game.”

Ramírez participated in his first Home Run Derby last year in Los Angeles. Because he had a thumb injury at the time, he may not have had the full experience. He launched 17 homers, but he was knocked out in the first round by Juan Soto, who went on to win the whole thing.

Would he do it again? Ramírez didn’t hesitate.

“If they invite me,” he said, “of course I will go.”