Cuddyer elated to make first All-Star team
In 11th season, versatile veteran club's lone representative
MINNEAPOLIS -- The long wait for Michael Cuddyer to be selected to his first All-Star Game is over.
The 11-year Twins veteran was announced as a reserve for the American League squad during the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell on Sunday.
"It's awesome," Cuddyer said. "Words really can't describe it. It's right up there with getting your first call to the big leagues. It's really special. You think of all the people who helped you from Little League on up from your teammates to your coaches. It's a special time, not just for me, but for everybody."
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played on July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
Cuddyer is the lone representative for the Twins in this year's Midsummer Classic, as first baseman Justin Morneau saw his streak of four straight All-Star appearances snapped, while catcher Joe Mauer's three-year streak also came to an end. It marks the first time since 2004 that the Twins have just one All-Star.
But Cuddyer proved to be a deserving All-Star this year, by getting it done at the plate and showing his versatility in the field by playing first base, second base and right field, causing him to joke he'll bring all of his gloves to Arizona just in case.
The 32-year-old went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in Sunday's 9-7 win over the Brewers and is hitting .289 with a .357 on-base percentage and a .460 slugging percentage in 78 games. He also has a team-high 11 homers with 34 RBIs and 37 runs scored, while stealing a career-high seven bases.
His numbers simply proved to be enough for him to cancel a planned trip with his wife, Claudia, during the All-Star break.
"I think my wife and I were going to go up to Stillwater and spend a night in a bed and breakfast, but I think Phoenix will do just nicely," said Cuddyer, who added he called his parents and his wife upon hearing the news about his All-Star selection.
Cuddyer noted he's had more impressive numbers heading into the break in recent years, but the club always had its fair share of All-Stars -- such as Mauer, Morneau and Joe Nathan.
"I've gone into breaks with a few more home runs, a few more RBIs, and I've hit .280, .290 going into All-Star breaks," Cuddyer said. "But we've had MVPs and the best closer in the game, which is fine because they deserved it."
Nathan, a four-time All-Star, said it's Cuddyer who is worthy of the honor this year -- and it's about time, considering his impressive career with the Twins.
"We understand that personal accolades for most guys, you put those in the backseat, but with that being said, it's a huge honor," Nathan said. "He's done some good things in this game. I think this could finally get him a chance to get recognized for what he has done."
Designated hitter Jim Thome, who has played in five All-Star games and sits five home runs shy of 600 for his career, was also happy to see Cuddyer to get honored.
"Every baseball player plays the game to win, but to be selected to an All-Star Game, especially your first, it's the biggest thrill to be introduced on the line with the greatest players to play the game," Thome said. "It's something to be very proud of. All of them are great, but the first one stands out. He'll remember that forever. And it couldn't happen to a better guy."
Right-hander Scott Baker, who also warranted serious consideration for his first All-Star Game selection with a 3.15 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings, said he fully supported Cuddyer's candidacy this year.
"I think he's well-deserving," Baker said. "I know each team needs a representative, but I don't think this even plays a part. What he's done for the club, he's definitely our All-Star."
Cuddyer actually started slow, hitting just .226 with a .287 on-base percentage in April, before turning it around by hitting .300 with a .357 on-base percentage in May.
But it was in June when his stock soared, as the right-handed hitter posted an impressive slash line of .323/.402/.602 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 26 games.
"It's very exciting," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "I'm happy for him. It's one of those situations where as a manager, he's been here probably as long as I have, as far as managing goes, so I'm very happy for him. I would've been just as happy if it had been somebody else, but I think it adds a little something because of what Cuddy has done for this ballclub."
Rangers skipper Ron Washington ultimately decided to go with Cuddyer, choosing him as a reserve for his American League squad.
"We all know the plight of the Twins at the start of the year, but now they're starting to put it together, and Cuddyer has been a big part of it," Washington said. "He has those guys believing in themselves."
Cuddyer's All-Star candidacy was also helped by injuries to Jason Kubel, out since May 30 with a sprained left foot, and Denard Span, who has been out with a concussion suffered on June 3.
Kubel was hitting .310 with an .820 OPS and five homers and 30 RBIs in 52 games before his injury, while Span was batting .294 with a .361 on-base percentage while providing excellent defense in center field.
But with those two players out with injuries, Gardenhire backed Cuddyer as the club's most worthy All-Star.
"As far as position players, no doubt," Gardenhire said. "I think Kubel was on the right track. Span was on the right track. But Cuddy's been there from Day 1. He's really played very, very well."
Fans, having already decided the starters, this week will have the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, July 7. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Std rates may apply. On July 12, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsor