Baseball / Sports

A's revel in All-Star riches

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The All-Star parched Oakland A's quenched their thirst Sunday with six, no make that seven, All-Star selections, including the first position players plucked from an Oakland roster in 11 years.

Starting third baseman Josh Donaldson and three backups "" left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, catcher Derek Norris and first baseman Brandon Moss--all were tabbed to the American League team, as were starting pitcher Scott Kazmir and closer Sean Doolittle.

In addition, the A's newest player, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, capped a day in which he won his first start for Oakland with the news that he'd been selected to the National League team for the work he'd done with the Chicago Cubs.

The last A's position player named an All-Star was catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003.

As befits their image as survivors of the baseball edition of the Island of Misfit Toys, the A's 2014 selections include:

--A reliever, Doolittle, who was a minor league first baseman as recently as 2011.

--A starter, Kazmir, who was pitching for the Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters in independent baseball in 2012.

--A starting third baseman, Donaldson, who was drafted as a catcher.

--An outfielder, Cespedes, who had to flee Cuba in order to get a chance to play in the United States.

--A catcher, Norris, who doesn't play every day because he's part of a rare three-catcher platoon.

--A first baseman, Moss, who was an outfielder until two years ago and who was still signing minor league contracts with the hope he'd get big league playing time as recently as 2011.

--And a pitcher, Samardzija, who doesn't know what uniform he'll be wearing since he's changed leagues in the last 72 hours.

"We've got quite a few guys who have taken pretty interesting paths," Moss said.

Perhaps the most unlikely of the A's on the A.L. All-Star team--he was on the ballot as a D.H. but was picked as a first baseman--Moss was speaking for the group as a whole about the makeup of the Oakland contingent.

"We've got a guy who came from Cuba," Moss continued. "We've got a guy who was pitching for the Skeeters a few years ago. We've got Dino (Norris); you know I saw him in Triple-A a few years ago, and I told my wife, 'This guy's going to be an All-Star.' J.D. (Donaldson), the same thing. We've all taken pretty interesting paths to get this opportunity.

"Nothing here is taken for granted. We've all worked extremely hard to get here."

If nothing else, the A's, who have the best record in the major leagues, have representation that reflects the club's 55-33 record.

Oakland had a chance for three starting position players, but after Donaldson made it, Cespedes and Norris wound up being picked to the team as backups, as did Moss. Players pick the pitchers, and Kazmir and Doolittle got in via peer vote, as did Samardzija.

Cespedes will attempt to defend his title in the Home Run Derby, and there is a chance one of his competitors will be Donaldson. The third baseman said he'd like to take part, but there are some unspecified issues that have to be resolved before that can happen.

"I want to go and win again," Cespedes said in English after the formal press conference was over. "It's great to be an All-Star this time."

Donaldson had been saying all along that he didn't want to be a lone representative and said Sunday that the six berths claimed by the A's reflected the team's performance this season.

"Cespedes would probably be the closest to one of us taking a normal path to becoming an All-Star," Donaldson said. "I feel that the guys here and the routes that are taken. It goes to show the kind of character guys in this room have and the love of the game and the willingness to take chances at getting better.

"A lot of that comes with some growing pains. With that being said, I feel very happy for the guys that made the All-Star team."

The only one of the A's A.L. contingent who has been to an All-Star Game before is Kazmir, picked while pitching for Tampa Bay in 2006 and 2008. His game fell off the cliff after that, and by 2011, he was let go by the Angels. He has a different appreciation for this game than any of his teammates, maybe than any of the other All-Stars from either league given how far he fell to have arisen again.

"Looking at it now, I feel this is the most special All-Star (selection) for me," Kazmir said, "(not just) because of the fact of what I went through in the past couple of years. This one will be so much more special than the others because of how many guys who were elected to be on the All-Star team."

And as for Samardzija, it's not clear what uniform he'll wear, since he's now employed by the A's but earned his way onto the N.L. team as a Cub. What is clear is that he won't be able to pitch, although he will go to the game and take park in all the pageantry.

"Maybe I'll be wearing the National League uniform and I'll jump into the A.L. dugout with six of my guys," Samardzija said. "The All-Star Game is great. But you're only halfway through the season. There's a lot we have left to do. It's all about finishing the second half playing like All-Stars, too."

(c)2014 The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.)

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