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Four Pirates make All-Star team

USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 1981, four Pittsburgh Pirates will be members of the National League All-Star team. The representatives are starting pitcher Jeff Locke, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Pedro Alvarez and closer Jason Grilli.

"I'm proud of all four," Hurdle said of his All-Stars afterwards, "They're organizational wins. Two of them are homegrown. Two of them were scouted by us, developed by us, got in the Big Leagues by us and we're watching them blossom at this level." Hurdle added that the reaction of the team to the news was special: "McCutchen was excited as any of them; Pedro visibly excited; the team responded for each one of these guys. The vibe in here was really cool."

In some ways Jeff Locke is the surprise story of a surprising season for the Bucs. Entering 2013, Locke's career numbers included a 1-6 record and a 5.82 ERA. This season he already has eight wins while posting the second best ERA in Major League Baseball, 2.12.

In the clubhouse after the game, Locke said that he was "was surprised and honored" to be selected to the National League All-Star team. The 25 year old Pirates' starter said the biggest thing that's changed for him this year is his "confidence-level", "it's something different that I didn't really have before. A little bit of an edge out there on the mound." Having achieved one of the game's highest honors won't change anything for him in terms of his mindset going forward: "I fought hard to get on this team (the Pirates) and I'm going to keep pitching like I'm fighting to stay on this team. That's what's been working for me, so far. Just be the same guy every day and carry myself the right way."

After a slow start, in his last 63 games Pedro Alvarez is hitting .273/.332/.590 (.243/307/507 total). For the season, he has hit 22 home runs, third most in the National League. Adding to his All-Star credentials is his very fine, at times superb, defense. Alvarez was drafted by the Pirates in the first round (2nd pick) of the 2008 amateur draft.

Alvarez described his emotions as "happy" and noted that it was even "sweeter and more special" that the game is being played at Citi Field in New York, close to where he grew up. He acknowledged that he did not have the best of starts, but added "my feelings about what I can do didn't falter or waver at all."

After not making the roster last year largely because he was a "8th inning guy," Jason Grilli is an All-Star this year. The Pirates' closer has the second most saves in Major League Baseball, 28.

Grilli was visibly moved by his selection, especially coming on a day when his father was at the game and with him in the clubhouse afterwards. “I’m fighting back lump in my throat, for sure.” The reaction of his teammates was also a big deal: “the support, the hugs, the congratulations … that had me choked up the most.” While the Pirates closer was proud of his personal achievement, he said there were bigger, team-oriented, goals yet to achieve: “there’s four of us going, I wish there were 25. I would trade this experience in for what we’re really after, in all honesty. This is a personal thing, but I couldn’t want any more what the city of Pittsburgh wants, what this team wants. That is way more important, to me.”

For the third year in a row Andrew McCutchen will be going to the All-Star Game. He is batting .298/370/.467.

Mark Melancon was left off the roster even though he leads Major League Baseball in "shut down" innings. The saves statistic still trumps shut downs, I suppose.

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