Pirates All-Star ship set to sail in the desert

The Pittsburgh Pirates faithful should be rewarded with a handful of players making the 2011 All-Star team. (Photo by Chris Lucci)

With the 2011 MLB All Star game in Arizona just a month away, a hand full of Pirates may be making a journey to the desert. To spoiled fans of teams like the Yankees or Red Sox, this time of year is usually taken for granted, as they get to see their favorite stars play an extra game. However, for a team like the Pirates, who have not finished above .500 in the past 18 seasons, an opportunity like this is not only an honor, but a well-deserved gift to the Pittsburgh faithful.

Since 2000, the black and yellow caps have only been worn 14 times, and by only nine different players, between the lines of an All-Star field. However, this year’s roster may change the way people look at the Pirates. The Bucs are currently teetering on an even win-lose record due to the play of a group of potential All Stars.

Andrew McCutchen, in only his third year of Major League service has already belted 10 home runs and driven in 34 runs, while maintaining a .282 average. The Pirates center fielder is in the top 27 players in all but two of the nine categories National League players are evaluated on. With his raw talent and electrifying speed, McCutchen is a likely All Star nod in July.

Another position player that deserves a ticket to Chase Field, in only his second full season in the bigs, is Neil Walker. Filling the shoes of Freddy Sanchez, a three time Pirates All-Star second baseman, Walker has assumed the position with dignity, class and excellent early-season numbers. His eight home runs and 40 RBI should put him on the All-Star roster.

All-Star Pirate pitchers, at least since the turn of the century, have been scarce. Mike Williams got the nod twice and wore an All-Star uniform while holding an ERA above 6.00. Zach Duke was put on the roster in 2009 to replace an injured Matt Cain, and Evan Meek was the Pirates lone representative last year as a late inning set up man. Again, this year is different.

The Pirates closer, Joel Hanrahan is ninth in the National League and eleventh in the Majors with 15 saves, a number that will assuredly grow by the July break. With a 1.57 ERA and 27 strike outs in the closer role, Hanrahan deserves a ticket.

While Kevin Correia’s commanding eight wins ties him for first place in the Major Leagues, his ERA of 3.63 makes it hard to give him a definite spot.

That spot should, and likely will, go to this year’s most talked about player, the come back kid, Charlie Morton. With a new found arm slot and dominating sinker, Morton is nothing but All-Star worthy. Like a magician, Morton has made the memories of last year’s disappointing season disappear, replacing a 2-12 record and 7.57 ERA with an outstanding 6-2 and 2.52 ERA thus far in his 2011 campaign. From Major-League leading ground outs, to being compared to Roy Halladay from the top analysts in the business, Charlie should be the Pirates number one representative on NL All-Star roster.

While the All-Star game is in sight, there is still a lot of baseball to played. I would not encourage anyone to wager their house that any of these players will be named All-Star MVP, but playing .500 ball in June and talking about multiple All-Star candidates is something new and exciting to the city of Pittsburgh, and Buccos fans all around the county.

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