Royals turning heads with a trio of All-Stars
Gordon, Holland, Perez give KC three players for first time since '88
NEW YORK -- The Royals have a yearly ritual for when their All-Star representative is announced. No matter the result of the previous game, they'll take a moment to celebrate the occasion.
"Just hugs, high fives, maybe a couple beers," left fielder Alex Gordon said.
This year, it was Gordon. The outfielder, who was an American League Final Vote candidate in 2010, is batting .283 with a .772 slugging percentage.
After a win over the Athletics, Gordon was announced as an All-Star. The Royals took their time to celebrate the accomplishment then split off. They thought that was it.
"Wait a second," manager Ned Yost told his players as they dispersed. "He's not going alone."
"Everyone was shocked," Gordon said.
Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez were both selected by the players, eliciting a pair of celebrations on that day. Nine days later, and just a day before the All-Stars arrived at Citi Field on Monday, relief pitcher Greg Holland was tabbed to replace Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma on the AL squad.
That just meant one more chance for the Royals to mark the occasion, even after Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Indians.
"We all forgot about the loss and celebrated a little bit," Gordon said.
For the first time since 1988, the Royals are sending three players to the All-Star Game, a revelation that caused an amazed Perez to simply say, "Wow."
"A little bit more confidence," Perez said, "but we're still working hard."
Kansas City is 43-49 and eight games back of first-place Detroit in a competitive AL Central race. The Royals haven't finished .500 or above since going 83-79 in 2003.
With three first-time All-Stars, Kansas City has sent five different players to the game in three seasons, with this year's crop joining first baseman Billy Butler (2012) and relief pitcher Aaron Crow (2011).
"It says we've got a lot of good pieces," Holland said. "We've got a lot of All-Stars on that baseball team. We've just got to learn how to hit and pitch at the same time."
Which is something the Royals are getting better at, or at least finding the pieces that can make that happen. Holland has a 1.80 ERA, 22 saves and strikes out 15.4 batters per nine innings in his first season as the full-time closer. Perez is better known for his defense, he throws out would-be basestealers at 33 percent rate, but Yost consistently bats Perez and his .284 average in the middle of the order.
The Royals' minus-eight run differential suggests they should be about two wins better than their current pace, too.
Kansas City has more representatives in New York than the first-place Athletics, Braves and Diamondbacks and as many as the AL East-leading Red Sox.
The Royals are in the company of the greats they looked up to. Just a week ago, before he was an All-Star, Holland got Mariano Rivera's autograph during a series against the Yankees. On Tuesday, he'll share a bullpen with him.
The autograph is still in his luggage.
"I'm really glad I made it to this one," Holland said.
For now, it's still a shock. Kansas City hasn't been accustomed to this much individual success in quite some time. That's starting to change, and there will be a day when multiple All-Stars isn't a reason for shock and awe.
Until then, this year's game is special.
"We definitely have a young team, very talented and a lot of guys who are capable of coming here multiple times," Gordon said. "It's pretty special what the Royals are doing now and I'm happy to see 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.