Wilson Ramos and Blake Snell weren't on the radar when last year's Midsummer Classic rolled around.Ramos had just returned to the Rays after missing the first 76 games of the 2016 season, and Snell was in the midst of a dismal start.• TUNE IN: Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on
Wilson Ramos and Blake Snell weren't on the radar when last year's Midsummer Classic rolled around.
Ramos had just returned to the Rays after missing the first 76 games of the 2016 season, and Snell was in the midst of a dismal start.
• TUNE IN: Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX
Slowly but surely, both found their way. Tuesday night they will represent the Rays at the All-Star Game at Nationals Park, though Ramos will not be playing due to a left hamstring strain.
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Ramos' return to prominence wasn't exactly a shocker. He'd been on the 2016 All-Star National League All-Star team as a member of the Nationals. The catcher tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 26, 2016, which prompted his second knee surgery and the subsequent rehab that followed.
The Rays signed Ramos to a two-year, $12.5 million deal on Dec.12, 2016, and he made his debut for the club on June 24 of last year.
"There's no doubt he had his ups and downs last year," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Coming back, I wouldn't say too soon, but not baseball ready. And then this year, he got off to such a rough start. But give him a lot of credit for not sulking, and kind of seeing the process through. He's been a force for us sitting in the middle of our lineup for the bulk of the year.
"The power's impressive, but we're starting to see a really good hitter who is using the whole field and showing power to all parts of the ballpark. I think he was battling his timing last year, battling some pitch recognition because of his time off. He looks really comfortable now. He's laying off some pitches. And the ones he can handle, he's doing damage with them."
Though disappointed that he won't be able to play, Ramos is excited to return to Washington, D.C., his former home.
"Very exciting moment for me," Ramos said. "I have good memories here. The fans love me here. Nothing better than being back and feeling like you're at home. Very exciting moment for me, especially because I want to go out there and hear those fans cheering my name loud."
Snell's emergence has been just short of remarkable. After completing a stellar Minor League career, Snell had difficulty delivering once he got to the Majors. He struggled with consistency throughout the first four months of the season, which led to several demotions to Triple-A Durham. But the lefty finished strong, going 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA in his final 10 starts. Now, Snell heads to the All-Star break at 12-5 with a 2.27 ERA.
Cash allowed that there were questions about Snell, from his mental state to the way he went after hitters. But Cash notes: "And to his credit, he's changed all that."
Despite being one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, Snell didn't make the AL squad until Cleveland's Corey Kluber bowed out with a right knee injury. Initially, Snell's omission caused an outpouring of pro-Snell sentiment, which the left-hander called "awesome."
"It was awesome to see how much everyone cared about me not making it and they went out of their way to show their support, which is awesome," Snell said. "It's all I could have asked for. It's crazy that that just happened. For that to happen means a lot to me."
Count Ramos among Snell's biggest supporters.
"Very happy for him because he deserved to be here," Ramos said. "In the very beginning they say all the names who made the team and I was a little bit angry because that guy has good numbers and a good season and he deserves to be here. Now I'm very happy here next to him because he deserves to be here."
Now that he's on the team, Snell is looking forward to "showcasing" his talent, because "that's what everyone's here to do."
"Also, I'm most looking forward to talking to the guys, meeting people [and] seeing what makes them so great," Snell said.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.