BOSTON - The Red Sox pitching staff has, to put it kindly, underperformed this year. The Red Sox entered Tuesday 11th in staff ERA in the American League and two of the top starters have lost their rotation spots due to ineffectiveness.
But the staff is not without its bright spots from an individual standpoint. Two, in fact, were recognized Tuesday with selections to the American League All-Star team: starter Steven Wright and closer Craig Kimbrel.
Wright is surely one of the biggest surprises in either league. When spring training began, he seemed destined to serve as the long man out of the bullpen, assured of a spot only because he was out of options.
But with Eduardo Rodriguez sidelined with a spring training knee injury, Wright grabbed a spot in the rotation and never let go. Through 16 starts, he's 9-5 with a 2.42. The latter is the second-best figure among qualified American League starters.
Not bad for someone who was acquired as something of a throw-in in a minor deal four seasons ago, and who entered this year with just 26 games of major league experience.
Being selected to the All-Star team was beyond his imagination as recently as several months ago.
"That's never something that came into my mind,'' said Wright, "because for me, I try to go out there and do everything I can to help the team win. Individual goals, although they're great, if you worry too much about that, it's going to take away from the concentration to do everything to help the team win.''
A native of southern California, Wright will get to pitch in front of family and friends in San Diego, about 90 minutes from where he grew up.
In recent weeks, he brushed aside questions about the likelihood that he would be chosen for the team.
"I tried not to think about it,'' he said, "because I try to worry about the things that you can control. (Making) the All-Star team is something you can't control. All you can do is prepare for your next outing and do everything you can to make a quality pitch.''
Wright was nearly out of baseball when he switched from being a conventional pitcher to a knuckleballer in 2011. He credited many for helping him make the successful transition.
"I've had a lot of help along the way,'' he said, citing bullpen catcher Mani Martinez, bullpen coach Dana LeVangie and former knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for their assistance in his development. "Everybody's taken so much time and effort to help me (get here) and help me going forward, because I still think I have a lot of work to do. It's like a reward more for them than it is for me, because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in this position.
"It's one of those things where I'm going to enjoy every minute of it and try to involve everyone I can.''
It's possible that Kansas City's Ned Yost, who will serve as the A.L. manager, could choose Wright to start the game.
"That's like icing on the cake,'' said Wright. "I'm not worried about that. The fact that I get to go and experience it with all these great players, I'm just going to cherish that. If I get a start, great. Either way, I'm going to the All-Star Game. It's going to be fun. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.''
The experience won't be quite as novel for Kimbrel, who will be making his fifth appearance in the mid-summer classic.
"It's exciting, it's an honor,'' he said. "To do it with new teammates this year, and for a lot of them it's their first time and they're going to start the game, is going to be cool. It's pretty special.''
Kimbrel's first four appearances came as a National League player with the Braves and Padres.
"It's going to be interesting to see an All-Star game from a different side,'' he said.
Kimbrel has been pretty reliable in save situations (17-of-19), though he's had some difficulty in tie games and non-save situations.
"I'm a little surprised,'' he said. "This year, I've been up-and-down so far. But being selected to go is a definite honor. If get a chance to pitch, I'll showcase what I've got and try to get some outs.''