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Yates unused as NL's closer in ASG defeat

Padres' relief ace would have pitched 9th inning
@AJCassavell
July 10, 2019

Just think of it as a well-earned day off for Padres right-hander Kirby Yates to soak in the Midsummer Classic. The Padres' relief ace spent the first half as arguably MLB's top closer, posting a 1.15 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 39 innings. He racked up a Major League-leading 30

Just think of it as a well-earned day off for Padres right-hander Kirby Yates to soak in the Midsummer Classic.

The Padres' relief ace spent the first half as arguably MLB's top closer, posting a 1.15 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 39 innings. He racked up a Major League-leading 30 saves on his way to his first selection to the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.

Yates was never better than this past weekend against the Dodgers, when he saved the final three games of the first half -- including his first career five-out save in a tense ballgame on Friday night.

So, yeah, Yates could use a breather. And in the American League's 4-3 victory at Progressive Field, he remained on the sidelines. Before the game, Yates was informed that he was likely to get the ball in the bottom of the ninth inning as the National League’s closer. The game never got that far.

“There's disappointment a little, just because you didn't pitch,” Yates said. “But I think [Dave Roberts] was managing to win, and he told me I'd probably close it out if we had a lead. To me, that's pretty significant to have that role in an All-Star Game. That's a privilege. There's a lot of emotion, and I'd have loved to get in there. But that's really neat in itself.”

Still, Yates’ mere presence in Cleveland is something of a fairytale story. A journeyman reliever, Yates was claimed by the Padres in April 2017. He developed a splitter, which became one of the most dominant weapons in the sport. And he's become one of the game's best relievers in the process.

"It’s just crazy that you can go through so much and then all of the sudden you have success to be an All-Star," Yates said during media availability in Cleveland. "It’s pretty cool to be able to say I’m an All-Star. I take pride in that."

Yates underwent Tommy John surgery in college and went undrafted. He lingered for five seasons in the Minor Leagues and bounced through four AL organizations before joining the Padres.

Now, he'll always be an All-Star. Even if he didn't pitch Tuesday night for the NL.

“It all hit me when I was starting to put on my uniform,” Yates said. “I hadn't really felt butterflies. I hadn't really felt anything. Then as soon as I started doing that, the emotions started coming. It's something I'll never forget.”

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.