Cleveland – Baseball justice is typically a little slower than this. Take Michael Fulmer’s case, for example. He pitched well enough to merit a spot on the American League All-Star team last year and was overlooked.
Justin Upton, who leads the Tigers in home runs and RBIs, was certainly deserving of All-Star consideration this year, but was not on the initial American League roster.
That was rectified Friday. He was a late addition to the team, effectively replacing Fulmer on the active roster. Fulmer, who starts against the Indians on Sunday night, won’t be available to pitch in the game, but will take place in all the All-Star festivities.
“It’s always great when the fans, players and coaches around the league recognize the work you put in and the way you play the game,” Upton said. “It’s nice when they recognize that you are playing well enough to be part of an elite group like this.”
This is the first time he will be representing the American League in the All-Star Game. He was selected to the National League squad in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
“To be able to represent both leagues in the All-Star Game is a pretty cool thing to have done in your career,” he said. “I am definitely excited about that.”
Upton has picked up offensively where he left off at the end of last season. He’s hitting .271 with a .356 on-base percentage, .507 slugging and .864 OPS, 15 home runs and 54 RBIs.
He is third in the American League hitting .384 with runners in scoring position. He also has six outfield assists and leads the Tigers with six stolen bases and 51 runs.
“I know he's replacing somebody, but I thought Justin Upton was a deserving All-Star before this roster change,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He's been our most consistent offensive player, he's playing better defense this year, he's running the bases. He's been outstanding.”
Upton wasn’t bothered by the initial oversight – he’d been down that road before.
“It is what it is, there are a lot of guys playing well, a lot of guys having a good first half,” he said. “Not everybody can be an All Star. I’ve seen it before. There are a lot of guys to pick from.
“But at the end of the day, I got there.”
Fulmer, who was selected to the American League team for the first time, thought he had worked it out to where he would be able to throw 15 pitches in the game. Joe Torre, MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, though, had other plans.
“Brad called me into his office on Wednesday and we talked about it,” Fulmer said. “We were in agreement to let me throw 15 pitches in the All-Star Game, even though I’m pitching Sunday. I told them, ‘This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’
“Everybody was on board, Brad, Al (Avila) and Rich Dubee (pitching coach). Then Joe Torre called Brad (Thursday) and said they would need a guaranteed full inning out of me.”
Ausmus pulled Fulmer back in his office Thursday and still gave Fulmer the option of pitching in the game Tuesday, though he made it clear the team’s preference was to stick to a 15-pitch limit being on just two days of rest.
“He said it was up to me,” Fulmer said. “I told him I would rather pitch Sunday and then pitch one of the first couple of games after the All-Star break. I’d rather pitch for the team. That’s my No. 1 priority.
“If I would have pitched in the All-Star Game, I would have been pushed to the back of the rotation. I want to pitch for us. So I will go to Miami and have fun and then pitch in one of the first couple games back.”
Ausmus said the rotation wasn’t set in stone, but most likely Justin Verlander will start on Friday after the break and Fulmer will go Saturday.
“Major League Baseball has to make sure they have enough (pitching) coverage,” Ausmus said. “It’s tough to say you are only going to use a guy for a very limited number of pitches. After talking a few times with Joe Torre, and him conferring with his people, they decided to insure they had enough coverage, they had to replace him.
"You don't want to hamstring the manager with a pitcher who can only throw 15 pitches – that could be one inning or it could be one batter.”