PITTSBURGH -- Getting justly rewarded for approaching the 84th Midsummer Classic with one of baseball's best records, the Pirates have five All-Stars on the 2013 National League squad, the organization's largest contingent in 42 years.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and closer Jason Grilli, whose selections were anticipated, were originally joined by third baseman Pedro Alvarez and young left-hander Jeff Locke.
When Locke had to withdraw due to some minor tightness in his lower back, he was replaced by relief pitcher and teammate Mark Melancon.
Since Locke formally maintained his All-Star status, though removed from the active roster, the Bucs boasted five All-Stars for the first time since 1972, when the outfield of Roberto Clemente, Al Oliver and Willie Stargell, catcher Manny Sanguillen and right-hander Steve Blass all were picked for that summer's classic at Atlanta Stadium.
"We're not the team that gets a token one [selection] any more," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've earned our way."
The Pirates had only the obligatory All-Star rep in 14 of the 16 seasons prior to Hurdle taking over in 2011, with two selections the other years.
"I'm proud of all four. They are organizational wins," Hurdle said on July 6, when he gathered the players in Wrigley Field's visiting clubhouse to disclose their All-Star status and reported that "the vibe in here was really cool."
Many hours later, the rest of the nation got the word as the 2013 All-Star squads were revealed on FOX television's MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell.
The All-Star announcements coincided with the Pirates' first-ever Dads Road Trip. The fathers of McCutchen, Alvarez and Grilli were all present to share their sons' glee and pride.
"Obviously, it was a very special moment. I was super excited to get to share it with him," Alvarez said of his dad, also named Pedro. "I wish my mom and sister were also here, but I got my wife and dad, and that made it very special. I'm happy."
McCutchen's selection by the players was almost a given, since at the conclusion of last season, he was their pick to receive the Players Choice Award as NL Most Outstanding Player.
He becomes the Pirates' first three-time All-Star since infielder Freddy Sanchez (2006- 07, 2009). But he is the Bucs first position player to make three consecutive All-Star teams since Bobby Bonilla (1988-91).
"But McCutchen was as excited as anyone else," Hurdle testified.
Grilli and Alvarez were also picked by their peers. Locke was the only managerial choice, getting Giants and NL skipper Bruce Bochy's nod.
"I was totally surprised," Locke said. "And felt honored. It's something they can't take away from you. I'm excited to meet a lot of the other [NL] guys and to represent this club, which is the most important thing for me."
The selection is also a confirmation of Grilli's persevering rise from career-long obscurity to elite closer, a role he is filling for the first time as a 36-year-old veteran 13 years after his big league debut.
Locke was recognized for his remarkable about-face after a loss in his first start of the season put his career record at 1-7. He ranks among the league leaders in ERA.
"I'd have called you a liar," Locke said of the imagined scenario in which someone told him after that initial outing that two months later he would be an All-Star. "But it goes beyond the numbers; the confidence level is something I did not have before. I got a little edge on the mound."
Alvarez's power surge made him a first-time All-Star. He's second in the NL with 24 home runs.
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, July 16. 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.
Aside from his personal breakthrough, Grilli makes it three summers in a row for Pittsburgh's closer traveling to the All-Star Game, following Joel Hanrahan's selections the past two years.
"It's a dog-and-pony show in the sense it's a personal accolade, and that's not why I'm here," Grilli said of the All-Star experience. "But it is a reflection of what you've put in to help the club win. The reaction I got from teammates -- the support and the hugs -- probably had me choked up the most."
Melancon's original omission had been glaring. He is statistically having an even better season than Grilli (0.81 ERA in 45 appearances, compared to 1.99 in 43) but is doing it in the relatively unsung role of a setup reliever.
"For an eighth-inning guy to make it, it's out of the ordinary," Hurdle had said before Melancon's ultimate selection proved him to be extraordinary.
Still bypassed was Francisco Liriano, the veteran left-hander who leads the Pirates' staff with nine victories.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.