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Mariners represent in Midsummer Classic

Seattle represented by a young wave of players in D.C.
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

For the last few years, there was a perception that the Mariners were an aging team with a closing window to make a postseason run behind the veteran core of Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

But that storyline has been shattered by the new reality of this year's Mariners, a point driven home as players began gathering Monday in Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. 

For the last few years, there was a perception that the Mariners were an aging team with a closing window to make a postseason run behind the veteran core of Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

But that storyline has been shattered by the new reality of this year's Mariners, a point driven home as players began gathering Monday in Washington, D.C., for Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. 

The Mariners are represented at this year's All-Star festivities by a younger wave of players, led by 25-year-old reliever Edwin Diaz, who has emerged as one of the elite closers in the game with an MLB-leading 36 saves.

Video: Diaz on being with teammates at the All-Star game

Also in D.C. are right fielder Mitch Haniger, making his first All-Star appearance at age 27, and shortstop Jean Segura, a second-time All-Star now at 28.

The old guard is also still making its presence felt as Cruz earned his sixth All-Star berth as a 38-year-old designated hitter. But clearly the Mariners are moving away from relying so heavily on the veteran core. Despite a subpar first half from Hernandez and an 80-game suspension to Cano that still has another month to run, Seattle has the fourth-best record in the Majors at 58-39.

Cruz will be a free agent at year's end, but Haniger and Diaz are under team control for four more years through 2022 and Segura signed a contract extension last year that goes through 2022 with a team option for '23.

"We have something special going on," Haniger said. "If you look at the core, there's going to be a lot of guys sticking around the next couple years, and we're just looking to build off of it and improve every day."

Video: Haniger discusses All-Star Game, Segura and Mariners

Cruz has been part of four playoff teams with the Rangers and Orioles in the past and would love to help the Mariners get to the postseason for the first time since 2001.

"We have a really good core of guys that are playing good," Cruz said. "Not only that, but we understand the fans and whole organization want to go the playoffs and understand what we have in front of us. It's not going to be easy. We definitely needed the All-Star break the way we were playing the last few games. It couldn't have come at a better time."

Video: Nelson Cruz on the Mariners' push for the playoffs

After winning eight straight, the Mariners have lost eight of their last 11, so they'll be looking to regain their momentum after the four-day break. But with the fourth-best record in the Majors, they've been one of MLB's biggest surprises already.

"We will be OK," said Segura. "We have a talented team that's good in all areas, so nobody is worried. We have guys with velocity, good offense, good arms and Robinson Cano is coming back. I know there are other teams out there that are good, teams like Houston, but we are confident and nothing is impossible. I believe in our team."

Video: SEA@LAA: Segura flashes defensive brilliance at short

Much of the Mariners' magic has been a 26-12 record in one-run games, and Diaz's dominance has played a big part in that.

"He's our biggest weapon," Haniger said. "If we get the ball to him, we know the game is over. He's been great all year. That's our whole goal. Just get a lead and get Eddie on the mound."

The Mariners followed that formula extensively in the first half as Diaz's 48 relief appearances are tied for the most in the Majors. But due to team's recent struggles, he pitched just once in the last week and will be ready to roll when called on for his first All-Star appearance.

"I'm so happy to be here and have this opportunity to be here with all of these players," Diaz said. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to be an All-Star, and now it has come true."

Haniger was also taking it all in during Monday's media day and looking forward to talking hitting with the likes of Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.

"It's awesome," he said. "A little surreal, and just trying to soak it all in. This whole week I've been answering questions and didn't really know how it was going to be until I got here. It's pretty cool."

While watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX on Tuesday, 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.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura