NEW YORK -- No National League bullpen has done more work this year than Pittsburgh's, and few if any have done better work. So it's fitting that the Bucs' bullpen is well-represented at the All-Star Game.
Closer Jason Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon both were chosen for the NL team. Pittsburgh is the only NL club, and one of only two in the Majors, to place two relievers in the Midsummer Classic (Toronto is the other).
"What they've done this year out of the bullpen, not just those two guys but everybody, it's been lights-out," said starter Jeff Locke, who was also selected to the NL squad. "They're a huge reason why we're where we're at right now. My cap always goes off to those guys. Some of the hardest workers on the team."
Grilli, Melancon and Locke join Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen to form the biggest Pirates All-Star contingent since 1972. It's appropriate for a team that has baseball's second-best record.
And the relief corps has been an enormous part of that success. Pirates relievers lead the NL in innings pitched. They're second in bullpen ERA, first in saves, second in bullpen strikeouts, and they have the second-fewest relief losses.
If ever a bullpen deserved multiple All-Stars, this is it.
"It's really cool," said Melancon, who learned he was added to the team on Sunday. "We have to give credit to the rest of the guys in the bullpen. If we don't have Justin Wilson and [Tony] Watson and [Vin] Mazzaro and [Jeanmar] Gomez, Bryan Morris, it's a complete game-changer for Grilli and I. We have to get to those points to be able to get holds and saves. We're very appreciative for those guys."
Both Grilli and Melancon traveled circuitous roads to get to this point. Grilli, 36, is on his sixth big league team. He's been released twice and traded twice.
Melancon's path has been a bit shorter, but still plenty complicated. He's with his fourth Major League team, and he's coming off a year in Boston where very little went right.
Making it even sweeter for Grilli is a hometown feel. He attended college at Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J.
"I'm still looking for the words," he said. "It's just been stellar. No short of a dream come true. I'm living it. I don't know if I can appreciate it until it's entirely over."
So while a bit of a breather might be welcome for these two hard-working pitchers, they simply couldn't be any more thrilled to be at Citi Field. They just wish they could have brought a few more guys with them.
"He and I are the only two representatives from our bullpen, and I definitely want to commend the guys that are doing the hard work with us," Grilli said. "That's a big reason why we're here. Each individually, collectively as a ballclub, our bullpen everybody knows has been awesome."
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.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.