The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had five All-Stars, there was no designated hitter, baseballs were made of horsehide and the major leagues had 24 teams.
That was 1972, when Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Steve Blass, Al Oliver and Manny Sanguillen represented the defending World Series champions at the National League’s 4-3, 10-inning win in Atlanta.
With the addition of reliever Mark Melancon as an injury replacement Sunday, the Steel City has a fab five once again. Seeking to end a record streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are 56-37 at the All-Star break and contending for the NL Central lead.
”It’s a great honor for our organization and shows how far we have come in the last few years,” general manager Neal Huntington said.
Once viewed by the Yankees as Mariano Rivera’s possible successor, Melancon was traded by New York, Houston and Boston in a span of 2 1/2 years. Now he joins third baseman Pedro Alvarez, center fielder Andrew McCutchen and closer Jason Grilli on the NL roster.
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke, Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, all on the original NL All-Star squad, are hurt and will miss Tuesday night’s game at Citi Field.
”It’s pretty cool to be considered among the upper echelon of major league baseball players,” Melancon said. ”It’s really humbling. It’s something you always hope will happen at some point in your career and I’m really excited about it.”
He learned of his addition late Saturday afternoon.
”My first thought was, how I am going to get so many people to New York – which is a pretty busy city, to say the least – on such short notice?” Melancon said.
Pirates traveling secretary Greg Johnson helped with the arrangement to transport a dozen people in the Melancon traveling party.
NL manager Bruce Bochy also selected Sergio Romo, his San Francisco Giants closer, as a replacement pick along with Atlanta catcher Brian McCann. St. Louis closer Edward Mujica was chosen to fill in for teammate Adam Wainwright, who started Sunday night.
Under baseball’s labor contract, pitchers who start on the Sunday before the All-Star game may opt not to participate.
Despite all the changes, Yasiel Puig was left out again. The rookie sensation from the Los Angeles Dodgers, beaten out by Freeman in fan balloting online for the NL’s final spot, didn’t start for the second straight day Sunday because of a sore left hip, though he singled as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning. He came out after four innings Friday and didn’t play Saturday.
”If a guy is hurt, it doesn’t make sense for him to go,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Baltimore pitcher Chris Tillman, Kansas City closer Greg Holland and Oakland closer Grant Balfour were chosen by AL manager Jim Leyland of Detroit to replace Tigers ace Justin Verlander, Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma and Oakland’s Bartolo Colon, who all started Sunday. Verlander was the AL starter and loser in last year’s All-Star game at Kansas City.
”It’s a great honor now that it happened,” Balfour said. ”It was up in the air and it’s nice to know it is official. I can go and have fun and do my thing.”
Holland joined outfielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez to give Kansas City three All-Stars for the first time since George Brett, Mark Gubicza and Kurt Stillwell in 1988. Holland received the notification Sunday in Cleveland and traveled with Gordon and Perez to New York instead of returning to Kansas City with the rest of the team.
He wasn’t sure he was properly packed for the All-Star festivities
”I’ve got a lot of golf shirts,” Holland said. ”I don’t know if that will pass. We’ll see what happens.”
Mujica’s addition gave the Cardinals six All-Stars, tying Detroit for most in the majors.
Romo joined Giants teammates Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Marco Scutaro to give the struggling World Series champs four representatives.
”I’ve never really seen myself as an All-Star. I’ve never really said it’s one of my goals to make an All-Star team, but now that it’s happening, I’m very proud. I mean, I’m an All-Star. Cool,” Romo said. ”To be honest, I still feel like I weaseled my way into the big leagues.”
NOTES: There are a record 39 first-time All-Stars following the additions of Melancon, Romo, Tillman, Holland, Balfour and Mujica, four more than the previous mark set two years ago in Arizona. … Holland and Balfour both earned $50,000 bonuses, Romo and Tillman $25,000 each and Melancon $10,000.