Sherrill rewarded with All-Star selection
O's closer is second in the American League with 27 saves
BALTIMORE -- When the Orioles traded Erik Bedard to the Mariners during the offseason, everyone expected that an All-Star was changing hands between the two teams. They were right, but they had the wrong guy. Baltimore closer George Sherrill was named to his first All-Star team on Sunday in recognition for his solid half-season with the Orioles.
"Hopefully I can do this organization and these guys in here an honor, do well and represent the club well," said Sherrill, who was named to the team by American League manager Terry Francona, who doubles as the field boss of division rival Boston. "It's drastic, the changes that happen in this game. I'm just in a really fortunate position."
Sherrill, who was acquired as part of a five-player package in exchange for Bedard, ranks second in the Major Leagues in saves (27) and is on pace to shatter the team's all-time saves mark (45), set by Randy Myers in 1997. Sherrill has been one of the key figures in transforming Baltimore's bullpen, which set a team mark for highest ERA (5.75) last season.
"I'm glad for him," said third baseman Melvin Mora. "This guy's been battling all year long and he deserves it. I think that I cheer more for Sherrill because he's been outstanding for us closing games in tough situations."
The southpaw took the closer's job and ran with it, reeling off nine straight saves in April before getting his first taste of adversity. Sherrill also went 7-for-8 in save opportunities in May before hitting a rocky patch in June. The former Mariner blew three save opportunities in May, including two in consecutive games on June 29 and 30.
In fact, those recent struggles were enough to make Sherrill unsure whether he'd get the All-Star nod. Baltimore has only had one All-Star represent the team eight times in the last nine years, but second baseman Brian Roberts has a chance to join Sherrill. Roberts was chosen as one of five candidates for the All-Star Game Final Vote.
"I hadn't been doing that well lately," Sherrill said. "Brian's put up great numbers. [Aubrey Huff] has put up great numbers [and] Jimmy [Johnson] has had a great year. It is an honor to be named, but I wasn't really expecting it."
Those were high-profile miscues, but Sherrill has become much better known for pitching into and out of trouble. He loaded the bases with nobody out in consecutive appearances against Milwaukee and Chicago, but retired the side both times to earn the save. And his high-wire acts have inspired a clubhouse saying -- "Never a doubt, George."
The Orioles have even fashioned a victory celebration based around the way Sherrill wears his hat. The left-hander never bends the bill of his cap, and his teammates have taken to flipping their bills up whenever he successfully converts a save. And if he does so in the All-Star Game, teammate Kevin Millar said his peers better live up to their end of the bargain.
"If George is in the game at the end of the All-Star Game," said Millar, "I'll have to make a few calls to the guys on the team. They've got to flip their hats up. That's the way we roll, and they've got to be careful with Orioles magic."
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Sherrill, an undrafted free agent out of Austin Peay State University, has taken the road seldom traveled to the All-Star Game. He began his professional career in the Independent Frontier League before moving on to the Independent Northern League, toiling in unaffiliated leagues for his first five years before Seattle signed him to a Minor League contract.
He whipped through the upper levels of Seattle's farm system before making his debut with Seattle in 2004, and he worked as a situational southpaw for much of the last three seasons. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley pegged Sherrill as a closing candidate virtually as soon as the trade was completed, and the early returns have made him look quite good.
"I think I've gone on record as saying this before," said Trembley. "It's a great story for baseball. A guy from where he's come from and now he's going to pitch in the All-Star Game, the last one in Yankee Stadium. I think it's great.
"I won't be done until we win a ring," added Sherrill. "It would be nice to get one of those this year. But this is an honor."
Trembley got the opportunity to inform Sherrill before Sunday's game, and he called it one of the great pleasures of his position. And Sherrill, one of the canniest players you'll ever meet, said he figured out what was up before he entered the office.
"He tried to make it seem like I'd gotten in some trouble, but I knew that wasn't the case," he said of Trembley. "I kind of figured when he wanted to talk to me today. He had already told me I was throwing today, so I kind of thought that might be what it was. When he told me, I was just kind of shocked -- and still am, I guess."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.