Closer makes first Midsummer Classic, replaces teammate Colon
OAKLAND -- A's closer Grant Balfour was added to the American League All-Star squad on Sunday, giving the first-place A's two players on the Midsummer Classic roster for just the second time in the last nine years.
Balfour, coincidentally, replaces Bartolo Colon on the AL active roster, with Colon unavailable to pitch Tuesday after starting Sunday's 3-2 victory against the Red Sox.
"Balf deserves to be an All-Star as well," manager Bob Melvin said, "and thank goodness he is."
The announcement was almost all too expected, given the pitcher's credentials and buzz surrounding his inexplicable absence from the original roster orchestrated by AL manager Jim Leyland last week.
That's why Balfour had a bag packed for New York, just in case.
"Just a little overnight bag," he said.
"It's kind of a bummer to see that he wasn't on it initially, to be honest with you," said reliever Ryan Cook. "But, we kind of had an idea of what would happen, and now that it's finally official, it's awesome and well deserved. I thought he deserved to be there the whole time."
Balfour has 25 saves on the season and 43 consecutive dating back to last year, an ongoing Oakland record. He is the only AL reliever without a blown save this year, with his last coming April 29, 2012.
It was around that time the then-struggling righty was demoted from the closer's role, which he didn't regain until nearly four months later. He hasn't looked back since.
The first-time All-Star, 35 and in his 10th Major League season, finished the first half with a 1.63 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings. He is just the second Australian to earn an All-Star berth, joining catcher Dave Nilsson of the Brewers in 1999.
"I'm relieved. It's definitely a great honor to be going," Balfour said. "It's one of those things, each and every year, you'd like to be on the team. It hasn't worked out that way. I feel like I've had some good years, but things have to go right and go your way sometimes, and it's just an honor now to be named to it, and I'm very happy to cross it off the list."
"I'm very excited for him," said Josh Donaldson, considered All-Star-worthy himself. "Minus Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis, I don't know any guy that's more worthy of it. He's been a workhorse for us, just been nails in the ninth inning. The guy's been nothing short of phenomenal for us."
Colon said he expects Balfour to pitch in the game Tuesday, and knowing that subsides the little disappointment he feels in not getting the chance to do so himself, after making appearances in both the 1998 and 2005 All-Star Games.
Leyland has been insistent in saying he wouldn't allow any pitchers who started Sunday to throw in the game, a stance Melvin fully supports.
"I don't blame him," he said. "I wouldn't want to put anyone in that position, especially a starting pitcher like that. There are some complications that potentially come from that. Those aren't your guys, so you definitely want to stay away from that."
Now, the national stage is set for one of baseball's most fiery pitchers.
"I'm not going to go out there and do cartwheels," Balfour said. "I'm going to go out there and pitch how I pitch. I'll be going out there to win the game. The game definitely means something, and we want to win it."