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Yanks trio enjoying All-Star experience

Trio of Yankees enjoying All-Star experience

DETROIT -- After three months on the emotional roller coaster that is the 2005 New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and Mariano Rivera are enjoying themselves during this year's All-Star festivities in the Motor City.

The three Yankees are part of the American League's roster, the smallest contingent of Bombers since 1996, when John Wetteland, Wade Boggs and Andy Pettitte represented the Yanks.

"You see so many new faces around here every year, so to keep coming back is very humbling," Rodriguez said. "I get to represent the greatest city in the world and the greatest franchise. I'm very fortunate."

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"Once you're here, you look around and see the happy faces," Sheffield said. "It makes you glad to be a part of it."

All three players have posted tremendous numbers for the Yankees, with A-Rod leading the way. The AL's starting third baseman, Rodriguez is hitting .317 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs, putting himself in contention for the league's Triple Crown.

Last year, A-Rod was hitting 47 points less and had driven in 14 fewer runs, but he seems to have adjusted to life in the Bronx in his second year, and the Yankees have been the beneficiaries.

"I've been more comfortable. I've gone back to what I've been doing for the past 10 years," Rodriguez said. "Last year was the most difficult of my career, having to deal with so many different things. This year, it's been back to normality."

"[A-Rod is] a big reason why we're 2 1/2 games out," Sheffield said. "If it weren't for him, we'd probably be long out of it. He's been the most consistent player on our team."

Sheffield has done his part to help the Yankees this season, batting .298 with 17 homers and 68 RBIs.

Despite his solid numbers, Sheffield isn't satisfied with his first half, and he believes that the remainder of the season should be much better for both him and his team.

"I've produced, RBI-wise, but I feel that I can be more consistent," said Sheffield, a nine-time All-Star. "I'm not pleased with being mediocre. The more consistent I am, then you'll see what I can really do. If we play like we're capable of playing, we'll take over the division."

After the first week of the season, many people would have questioned Rivera's inclusion in the Midsummer Classic. The seven-time All-Star blew his first two save opportunities of the season, both against the Red Sox, and the whispers began that the 35-year-old had lost a step.

"I don't try to prove people wrong," Rivera said. "It doesn't bother me what people say, because I know what I can do. When I don't think I can do it anymore, I'll go home."

Since those two blown saves, Rivera has gone 20-for-20 in save opportunities, allowing just two earned runs in 34 innings -- a remarkable 0.53 ERA.

All-Star Game 2005

"It's satisfying, but I knew I was going to be fine," Rivera said. "I gave my best [in the first week], and my best wasn't good enough. People are going to say what they're going to say, but I don't care. I trust myself. Things happen for a reason. I'm here now, and nobody is saying anything now."

Rivera's two teammates said that the Yankees wouldn't be in the position they are -- 2 1/2 games out of first place -- without the All-Star closer.

"I can't say enough about Mo," A-Rod said. "He's the most impressive person I've ever been around. He's arguably been our most valuable player this year."

"He's pretty much been lights-out," Sheffield said. "He's been a savior."

Yankees notes: The Yankees released left-hander Mike Stanton, who was designated for assignment by the club on June 30. Stanton is now a free agent. ... Jaret Wright and Kevin Brown each threw off a mound at the team's training complex in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, taking the next step toward a return to the Majors. Wright (strained right shoulder) threw 45 pitches, while Brown (strained lower back) made 40 throws. Both pitchers reported no problems. ... Felix Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch two innings for Class A Staten Island on Monday night, his first rehab game since undergoing knee surgery in May.

Mark Feinsand 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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