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07/06/08 6:45 PM ET
A first for Lee, a return for Sizemore
Tribe duo will hit New York to represent Tribe as All-Stars
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- When Spring Training camp opened earlier this year, Cliff Lee just wanted to secure the last job in the Indians' rotation.
When the 2008 All-Star Game takes place July 15 at Yankee Stadium, Lee might just be the American League's starter.
That's all you need to know about Lee's incredible resurgence this season. On Sunday, he was rewarded for his efforts by being named to his first All-Star squad. He'll be joined in New York by teammate Grady Sizemore, who was named to the AL team for the third straight year and said he might participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby.
The 79th All-Star Game, which takes place July 15, 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.
It's up to AL manager Terry Francona to determine whether or not Lee gets the starting nod. Regardless of Francona's decision, Lee is honored to be a part of the game.
"I just wanted to do my job," Lee said. "Making the All-Star team is kind of icing on the cake. I've been pretty fortunate this year, and things have gone my way quite a bit."
They didn't go Lee's way Sunday in Minnesota, when he gave up four runs in seven innings to take a 4-3 loss to the Twins.
But such outings have been the exception to the rule for the left-handed Lee this season. He is 11-2 with a 2.43 ERA through 17 starts.
That Lee will be among the All-Stars is a testament to his perseverance. A year ago at this time, he was in the process of earning himself a demotion to Triple-A Buffalo. But after coming to Spring Training camp hungry to prove himself, he has refined his command and regained his confidence.
"If you look at what he's done, there is a reason for it," manager Eric Wedge said. "His focus is so much better from pitch to pitch. In Spring Training, if you remember, he had a couple of difficult outings early on. But then there was one game where he really started dialing it in. Once he got going, he really got going."
That's for sure. The 29-year-old Lee could not have had a better start to the season. He notched victories in each of his first six outings, compiling an infinitesimal 0.81 ERA along the way. He did not allow a run in a 27-inning stretch from April 13-30.
The league made some adjustments as the season progressed, but Lee has had no trouble making an adjustment back. His only trouble of late has been a lack of run support, which is partly responsible for him taking a no-decision or a loss in four of his last five starts.
When it comes to run support, no one has provided more of it than Sizemore.
Though he bats from the leadoff spot, Sizemore has been the Tribe's only consistent power threat this season. His 22 home runs lead the league, and he's one stolen base away from becoming just the second Indians player to hit 100 homers and steal 100 bases as a member of the Tribe. Joe Carter is the other.
"When it comes to Grady, I think he could play in any era on any team for any manager," Wedge said. "Because of the way he plays and what he's all about."
Sizemore, who is batting .269 with 56 runs scored, 18 doubles, four triples, 22 homers, 50 RBIs and 20 steals in 85 games, has hit 10 homers in his last 23 games and has 14 homers in his last 34 games.
Obviously, then, he'd be a prime candidate for the State Farm Home Run Derby.
"I'd be happy to do it," Sizemore said of that possibility. "I'm not sure, I'm not leaning one way or the other right now. I haven't made up my mind. I'll just wait for them to ask me and then go from there."
Lee was considered a shoo-in for the All-Star nod, while Sizemore was on the bubble. Both players were selected to the team by a vote of their peers.
"I wasn't expecting it, but it was a good feeling," Sizemore said. "It's always an honor to be a part of an All-Star team."
Both Lee and Sizemore were acquired in the 2002 trade that sent Bartolo Colon to the Expos, proving just how valuable a savvy swap can be for a team like the Indians, who are currently contemplating trading staff ace C.C. Sabathia.