Kipnis, Masterson soaking up first All-Star Game
Second baseman surged to earn spot; pitcher making up for 2011 snub
NEW YORK -- Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis have contrasting memories of the festivities that surrounded the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix. While Kipnis experienced the thrill of hitting a leadoff home run against Julio Teheran in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, Masterson was stuck at home experiencing the unenviable role of being an All-Star snub.
Two years later, Masterson and Kipnis have come to New York with the opportunity to experience the thrill of their first All-Star selections together. They will serve as Cleveland's representatives on the American League roster when the Midsummer Classic is played Tuesday night at Citi Field.
Masterson and Kipnis were displaying a genuine sense of appreciation and excitement as they sat at adjacent tables while addressing media members late Monday afternoon. Both seemed to be soaking in the opportunity to share a clubhouse with Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and the other great players on the AL roster.
"You get to the field and it's like Christmas at your locker," Kipnis said. "You've got clothes, shoes, glasses and everything. It's unbelievable how they set this up. It's been awesome so far. I'm really enjoying it."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
This is the first time Kipnis has experienced an event of this magnitude since he participated in the star-studded Futures Game two years ago. The first four batters in Team USA's lineup that day -- Kipnis, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt -- were all selected to compete in this year's All-Star Game.
"I was happy to be there," Kipnis said. "I didn't even consider this to be a possibility yet. I wasn't one of the bigger names in that game. You had Harper with all the cameras in his face and Machado. I was just happy to be there. But now to share this and be on the same timeline that they are, I'm excited about that."
When Kipnis hit .200 with a .555 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in the 17 games he played in April, he certainly did not envision being a part of this year's Midsummer Classic. But while hitting .329 with a .992 OPS in the 67 games he has played dating back to May 1, the high-energy second baseman has earned his place among the game's elite. Cabrera, Trout and Chris Davis are the only AL players who have posted a higher OPS during that span.
"I've always been a streaky guy," Kipnis said. "I can get hot with the best of them and I can slump with the best of them. I knew that I was capable of doing it. It was just a matter of getting there. The confidence never wavered. It was just all about minor adjustments."
Many were surprised Masterson was denied an All-Star selection despite compiling a 2.66 ERA and limiting opponents to a .313 on-base percentage through his first 18 starts in 2011. But the even-keeled 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher still does not seem to be bothered by the snub.
"Being here is cool and neat," Masterson said. "If it didn't happen, that's OK. I'd rather go to the playoffs and win a World Series. If you would tell me you'd never be in an All-Star Game, but you'll win a few World Series, I'd take that in a heartbeat."
Masterson did not allow himself to become too bothered by the fact that he went 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA in 34 starts last year. Instead, he spent this winter committing himself to creating a more controlled delivery that would provide better command. As a result, he has gained the consistency that he lacked with his slider last year.
Through his first 20 starts this season Masterson has posted a 3.72 ERA and limited opponents to a .315 on-base percentage. While the statistics might not be quite as good as the ones he posted in the first half of the 2011 season, there was little reason to dispute AL manager Jim Leyland's decision to select Cleveland's ace.
Masterson leads the Majors with three shutouts and ranks among the top five AL pitchers in wins (10), innings pitched (135 1/3), strikeouts (137) and ground-ball percentage (69.2). He is the fifth Indians pitcher since 1916 to enter the All-Star break with at least 10 wins and 135 strikeouts. The most recent Cleveland pitcher to do so was Gaylord Perry in 1974.
"I think with the effort level at a consistent level, it has allowed me to be in the strike zone more consistently," Masterson said. "Who knows? Good Lord. Good defense. That helps out, too."