4 more Astros named to Dusty's All-Star team
OAKLAND -- Starting second baseman Jose Altuve and manager Dusty Baker will be joined by some familiar faces in the American League dugout at the All-Star Game on July 19, as four Astros were named to the reserve squad.
Justin Verlander was named to the AL squad for the ninth time in his career, and his third time with Houston (also in 2018 and '19). He'll be joined by a trio of first-timers: Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez.
Verlander, 39, leads the American League with 11 wins, and his 2.00 ERA trails only Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan (1.73 ERA). Verlander has been a workhorse in his return season after missing all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, tossing at least seven innings in eight of his 16 starts and recording 12 quality starts.
"It means a lot," Verlander said. "A lot of the things this first half put some stuff in perspective, kind of remembering all the hard work that went on to get me here, to get me back here. To be recognized by my peers and be selected, it's a great honor."
Perhaps no All-Star was more of a sure thing than Alvarez, who has positioned himself as an early MVP candidate. He entered Sunday leading the Majors in OPS (1.058), slugging percentage (.653) and at-bats per home run (10.31). Alvarez was a finalist to start at designated hitter but ultimately was edged out, 52% to 48%, by the Angels' Shohei Ohtani.
"That's a tremendous honor for him, such a young player, to finish second to Shohei," Baker said after the All-Star Game starters were announced on Friday.
Alvarez will not be available for his first career All-Star Game, as he was placed on the injured list prior to Sunday's series finale in Oakland. But for Alvarez and the other Astros first-timers, it's still an honor to be selected by their peers.
"I'm super happy for [Alvarez and Valdez]," Tucker said. "They've definitely earned it. They've had phenomenal years and have been working their whole lives for this."
After having a breakout season in 2021, Tucker is putting together a solid 2022, slashing .259/.351/.478 with 16 home runs entering play on Sunday. Tucker's 58 RBIs are second to Aaron Judge (65) among AL outfielders, and his 14 steals are tied for fifth most in the league. He has also been a key defender for Houston, per Fangraphs, as his 10 defensive runs saved this season are tied with Tampa Bay's Brett Phillips for the most by an AL outfielder.
Valdez, who has emerged as one of the best left-handed starters in baseball, concludes the quintet of Astros headed to Los Angeles. Valdez has gone 8-4 with a 2.64 ERA in 17 starts this season, currently stringing together 14 straight quality starts. He could not help but smile as he discussed making his first All-Star team.
"I've just worked really hard for this," Valdez said via interpreter Jenloy Herrera. "I've tried working tirelessly for this, tried focusing on the game a lot more, and just trying to have quality outings every single time I went out there, so today I could be an All-Star."
Houston's five All-Stars will be in good company, as Baker and his staff will be at the helm for the AL squad at Dodger Stadium. It's a special opportunity, Baker said, to get to manage his own players as well as some of the best players in the league at this prestigious event.
"I was looking at that list, and whew, they've got some bad boys on that list," Baker said. "I feel it's an honor to be managing, and we're on the same side, if [just] for one day."