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Duchscherer honored to represent A's

Duchscherer honored to represent Athletics

DETROIT -- Gee, you wonder why Oakland A's jack-of-all-roles reliever Justin Duchscherer -- alias Duke -- never gave the All-Star Game much of a thought last week. Hmm. Double hmm.

Maybe it's because A's skipper Ken Macha was lobbying loud and long for center fielder Mark Kotsay to be the team's representative. An informal poll of Athletics also deemed Kotsay as the logical choice, and third baseman Eric Chavez was a strong possibility, too.

Yet when the doors opened Monday for player interviews at the Midsummer Classic and the media horde mooed and moved like a cattle herd toward the selectees, a lone figure sat by himself and was virtually ignored for several minutes.

Yep, it was Duchscherer. The one, the only.

With middle relievers filling out the regular All-Star rosters over the past few years, American League manager Terry Francona and crew felt a pitcher was needed, and Duchscherer got the call Thursday.

"Right now, I'm kind of in shock," said the 27-year-old right-hander who's 4-1 with a 1.49 ERA this season. "It's not that I feel I don't deserve it, but I've always had doubters who said I never threw hard enough to pitch in the big leagues.

"But to sit here now is an honor. It makes me glad to know people see [my talent]."

For a pitcher blessed with underwhelming power who survived shaky times with the Class A Michigan Battlecats, a pitcher who'd call his father, Gerald, after poor outings and ask if he should change occupations -- "I was making $1,500 a month a barely paying the bills," said Duke -- suddenly being among baseball's elite is dream-like.

Maybe Duchscherer wasn't Macha's preferred choice, but the manager gave the reliever his due Monday.

"He's an interesting guy to have in your bullpen," he said. "He's kind of like a reliever who has 100 roles and can do every one of them. I can get two quick innings and he won't lose the lead. Last year, he even pitched five innings [of an extra-inning game] -- he's a super utility relief pitcher."

Duchscherer still has his detractors, but they're mainly batters who eye those pitches in the high 80s with glee, yet constantly struggle.

All-Star Game 2005

"You throw the ball 98 [mph] off the middle, they'd take that over 88 [mph] on the black," said Duke. "I took my lumps for sure and got beat up, but I've learned you've gotta stay on the corners and keep the ball down."

Duchscherer said this All-Star appearance won't change him as a person or pitcher once the second half resumes, and while he's making $329,500 a year now instead of $1,500 a month, he still must stay focused, tip the corners of the plate and throw inside.

For now, however, he'll enjoy this experience, with his dad, wife Michele, 22-month-old son Evan and uncle Pat in attendance.

As for the other A's, the ones who didn't make it, Duchscherer feels fortunate he's not taking a brief vacation.

"Kotsay -- people don't realize how good he really is," said Duke. "Chavez has six, seven years in the big leagues and is a notorious slow starter. He's very deserving."

Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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