MILWAUKEE — One year after having just one representative at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game for the first time since 2005, the Milwaukee Brewers are sending a pair to this summer’s Midsummer Classic.
Shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Carlos Gomez were named as reserves for the National League, as the 68 All-Stars were announced Saturday evening on FOX Sports.
Segura, 23, is Milwaukee’s youngest All-Star since Ben Sheets was named to the National League roster as a 22-year-old in 2001.
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Acquired from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last July, Segura made his debut with the Brewers on Aug. 6. He made 43 starts at shortstop for Milwaukee last season, hitting .264 with no home runs and 14 RBI.
The Brewers committed to Segura as their everyday shortstop this offseason, and the move has proven to be a wise one. Playing for Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, Segura won the batting title by hitting .324 with two home runs, 21 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 35 games.
While his torrid pace continued into spring training, nobody saw Segura’s first half coming. Hitting .322 with 11 home runs, 33 RBI and 26 stolen bases entering Saturday’s game.
“It was a special moment,” Segura said of his feelings when he found out he was an All-Star. “I was so happy. At my age, not many people are doing what I’m doing right now. It’s incredible.”
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Saturday a realistic goal for a good season for Segura would have been somewhere around a .280 batting average. Instead of simply taking a step forward, Segura has taken a giant leap and is in the race for a batting title in his first full season.
“Whether it was something in winter ball that he got confident in, I don’t know,” Roenicke said. “He led winter ball in hitting and he brought it right into spring training. I don’t want to say it’s different than what I saw last year, but he squares up so many more balls than he did last year. His batting practices are the same, he drives the ball the other way most of the time, he can turn on it when he wants to. Then he starts the season this year and it seems like he squares up five or six balls out of 10. That’s not easy to do.”
Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was voted by the fans to start the All-Star Game, but he may have to pull out due to a broken rib. Segura was first on the players’ ballot, meaning he will start the All-Star Game if Tulowitzki is unable to play.
The Brewers have had at least one starter in the All-Star Game since 2007.
“If I start, it’s going to be great,” Segura said. “I don’t want anybody to be hurt, Tulo is a great player. He’s the only guy that can start over me. He’s a good player. If he goes, he will start.”
While Gomez has always had All-Star potential, the 27-year-old has picked up right where he left off with a breakout second half last season. Gomez hit .281 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI over his last 67 games last season, ending as one of just five players in baseball with over 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2012.
Milwaukee gave Gomez with a three-year, $24 million contract extension during spring training, and he’s rewarded the Brewers for their faith by posting monster numbers in the first half.
“It’s six years of work,” Gomez said. “I’ve continued to work every year, and I have a good staff of coaches to help me and believe in my ability. When people push for you and believe you are a good player and believe you can help the team win, it feels really, really good for my family and myself.”
Leading baseball in wins above replacement at 5.4, Gomez entered Saturday’s game hitting .319 with 13 home runs, 41 RBI and 18 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense in center field.
“I knew he had the decent year last year, the last month I thought was really good,” Roenicke said. “Whatever happened that last month last year, he figured out this is who he wants to be and it works. Instead of this guy who is going to feel for it and hit line drives the other way, he’s going to be aggressive, he’s going to swing hard, he’s going to try not to chase pitches. It’s really worked for him.”
Gomez will appear in his first All-Star Game in Citi Field, the home stadium of the team he signed as an international free agent with in 2002 and made his big league debut with in 2007.
“It’s a little bit more special,” Gomez said. “New York is the team I made my debut with. My family was not there for my debut because they didn’t have a visa. I was sad about that. God gave me another opportunity to have my family see me as an All-Star player.”
The last time the Brewers had two first-time All-Stars was in 2008 when Ryan Braun and Corey Hart both made their first All-Star teams.
Gomez is especially excited to share the experience with Segura, who also hails from the Dominican Republic.
“Segura comes from the Dominican, and I’ve helped him a lot,” Gomez said. “He’s a good guy, good kid, good person and a good player. He deserves it. I wish this is the first one of many, many (for him).”