He may have one of baseball’s least glamorous roles, but Evan Meek turned enough heads during the first half of 2010 to be named to his first All-Star team.
The 27-year-old setup man will represent the Pirates in Anaheim, Calif., next week after being named as a reserve player to the National League squad on Sunday’s MLB All-Star Selection Show. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel made the selections.
Meek has been manager John Russell’s most reliable late-inning arm all season and entered Sunday with the lowest ERA (0.98) among all NL relievers. He is one of just four Major League relievers with an ERA below 1.00. Since April 21, Meek’s ERA has risen above 1.00 for a total of seven days.
Only two NL relievers – Washington’s Tyler Clippard and Colorado’s Matt Belisle – have logged more innings than Meek, who has pitched 46 in the team’s first 81 games.
All of Meek’s 2010 success comes in what is poised to be his first full season in the Majors. He was taken by the Pirates in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft, and though Meek didn’t stick on the big-league roster for all of the ’08 season, Pittsburgh was able to work out a trade with Tampa Bay to retain the right-hander.
With his selection, Meek also joins rare Pittsburgh company. Not since Mace Brown was named to the1938 All-Star squad have the Pirates been represented by a relievers that wasn’t used primarily to close games. He is the first Pirates pitcher named to an All-Star team since reliever Mike Williams made back-to-back appearances in 2002 and 2003.
Meek is one of 13 pitchers Manuel selected for his NL team, which has not won the Midsummer Classic since 1996. Five of those 13 pitchers are relievers, though Meek and Cincinnati’s Arthur Rhodes are the only two not to be used in a closer’s role this season.
Meek is the Pirates’ lone representative
UPDATE (12:45 pm):
Meek spoke with reporters about what he called a “surprising” selection:
On reaction: “It’s surprising. A lot of starters, a lot of closers go to the game. Considering our other candidate, Andrew McCutchen, it was definitely a surprise. He’s very deserving to go, and I thought that he should have gone. It will be awesome to represent Pittsburgh and just be a part of the game. It’s a real honor. I’m still just taking it all in.”
“It’s a great day. It’s a great surprise.”
On making it as middle reliever: “That’s why it was a surprise. The top starters and the top closers usually go. I’ve always said that there are a lot of great middle relievers out there. There’s a lot that are deserving to go to the game. I think they are overlooked a little bit because everyone always looks at starters and closers. It’s amazing to be selected. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”
“You can lose a game in the sixth, seventh and eighth, too. That’s why we’re important.”
On road here: “You all know about what happened here my first year with the struggles and being sent down and coming back up, but that’s all part of it. I’m just trying to get better every day. I’ve just been fortunate.”
On how he found out: “Russell came and got me and I walked into his office (about 11:45 am). I just came in, he shook my hand and said, ‘Congratulations, you made the team.’ He had a big smile on his face, and I had a big smile on my face.”
On success this season: “In Spring Training, having Dotel and Donnelly come down, I spent a lot of time talking to them before the season even started. They told me some things that no one had ever told me from a veteran standpoint — just how to keep things simple and routine. I think that’s been a big part of it. I am a real hyper guy, real anxious in the bullpen. They’ve just calmed me down a little bit. I’ve been able to just stay consistent and focused on my job.”
On who he told first: “I called my dad and little brother. They are all excited. They are trying to get some flights situated and taken care of. I have never attended an All-Star Game and I never went to one in the Minor Leagues. This is all new to me.”
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