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Hand named to NL All-Star squad

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Two springs ago, the Padres took a chance on a struggling left-hander who had recently been designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins. They liked the potential in his breaking ball. They thought he might be a useful bullpen piece, if he could put it all together.

Twenty-seven months later, Brad Hand is a two-time All-Star.

SAN DIEGO -- Two springs ago, the Padres took a chance on a struggling left-hander who had recently been designated for assignment by the Miami Marlins. They liked the potential in his breaking ball. They thought he might be a useful bullpen piece, if he could put it all together.

Twenty-seven months later, Brad Hand is a two-time All-Star.

"It's crazy," said Hand, who was named to the National League All-Star team Sunday for the second consecutive season. "Two years ago, I didn't know if I was even going to get a big league job once I got designated. I had no clue if any team was going to pick me up. You've just got to work hard, put your head down, keep moving forward. You never know what's going to happen. I was lucky to find a home here in San Diego."

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Hand is certainly a deserving choice. He owns a 2.91 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 43 1/3 innings. Despite pitching for a last-place club, Hand's 24 saves are second in the National League.

But Hand acknowledged that he was both honored by the selection and disheartened that he won't be joined by right-hander Kirby Yates. The Padres' setup man has posted a 1.57 ERA, albeit in seven fewer innings.

"I'm a little surprised to be honest," Hand said. "Kirby, he had a great first half. ... I definitely think he deserves it. The numbers he's put up this first half are ridiculous."

In reality, it was always going to be difficult for the Padres to send two relievers from the same bullpen. In the five seasons preceding Sunday's announcement, that happened only once in the National League. (Typically, when two relief pitchers are deserving, the closer is the default selection.)

"You're always hoping for a couple of guys on your team to make it," said Padres manager Andy Green. "Selfishly, we felt like Kirby was one of those guys we would've loved to see get his first All-Star nod. But to see Brad get his second, you start talking about guys who made two All-Star teams -- those aren't aberrations. Those are real dudes. He's been that. He's been outstanding for us. He anchors the bullpen."

In January, Hand inked a contract extension that keeps him under team control through 2021. Still, he's already drawing plenty of interest ahead of this month's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Rumors will swirl around him during All-Star festivities in Washington next week.

A year ago, Hand's trip to Marlins Park served as something of a redemption tour. He pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the NL, striking out Robinson Cano to end it.

Hand was cast aside by Miami in April 2016, and the Padres claimed him during the season's first week. He honed his slider into one of the game's most dominant weapons. Since his arrival, Hand's 276 relief strikeouts rank second in the Majors. His 193 appearances are the third-most. He owns a 2.66 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP.

"There's something in life to being knocked down and having the audacity to get back up and attack," Green said. "When you're a waiver claim, you've been knocked down. When you've been cast aside by another organization, somebody's basically said, 'Hey, I don't believe in you.' You have to carry a belief in yourself to overcome things. That's the greatest thing he could take from that."

On Tuesday, July 17, 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.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand