Deserving pair to represent Rockies

Deserving pair to represent Rockies

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook didn't have time to contemplate becoming a National League All-Star this year. There were much bigger issues, like keeping the Rockies from sinking so far that they couldn't rise, even in the mediocre NL West.

Cook stopped seven losing streaks and tied a club record with 11 wins before the All-Star break. The performance earned him his first career selection to the squad by Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who is managing the NL team this year.

Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday, through voting by peers, was selected to his third straight All-Star Game.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, at Yankee Stadium on 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 6 p.m. MT. 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.

Cook lost to the Marlins, 10-5 on Sunday, but he is 11-6 with a 3.66 ERA and leads the NL with 132 2/3 innings pitched.

"Maybe as a little kid," Cook said when asked if he dreamed of All-Star glory. "When you start playing professional baseball, you try to take it step-by-step, little-by-little and try to be the best you can at each level.

"Now that I'm here, I'm trying to be consistent, give myself a chance to be a winning pitcher, and the team's been helping me out a lot. It's just one of those things you can't really say you strive to do, but if you're playing good, consistent baseball it's just going to happen."

Cook, 29, became the third Rockies starting pitcher and fourth Colorado pitcher overall named to an All-Star squad. Mike Hampton participated in 2001, and Shawn Chacon was invited in 2003, when he also won 11 games before the break. Chacon was injured and did not pitch. Left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes made the NL squad three times, from 2005-07.

Only first baseman Todd Helton has been with the Rockies organization longer than Cook, as the club's second-round Draft pick in 1997. Cook has had streaks of impressiveness, but also some misfortune.

In 2004, he was beginning to make his mark in the Majors when life-threatening blood clots in both lungs afflicted him during an Aug. 7 game against the Reds at Coors Field. He missed nearly a calendar year, but returned in 2005 to go 7-2 with a 3.67 ERA in 13 starts. The following year he was 9-15 with a 4.23 ERA, with the team scoring two or fewer runs in 11 of his losses.

Last season, after a slow start, Cook improved to 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA in August when he suffered a left oblique strain that kept him out until Game 4 of the World Series. This year, he finally had health, help and production.

"Its just part of adversity," Cook said. "Everybody goes through different things in life. It was a unique story for me.

"But you've got to take it day-by-day. I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

During the Rockies' disappointing start, young starters Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and Greg Reynolds have struggled. Jeff Francis, a 17-game winner last year, tried pitching through pain for about seven weeks before landing on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain.

Cook is one of the biggest reasons the Rockies are not completely out of the race, and are at least thinking about making a run rather than trading off their expensive parts.

"You can't say enough for all that he's been through, and where would we be without him?" third baseman Garrett Atkins said. "A lot of us probably wouldn't even be here without him pitching the way he has and keeping us in the race even as poorly as we've played so far."

Holliday, who finished second to the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins for the NL Most Valuable Player Award last year, leads NL outfielders with a .343 batting average and has 13 home runs and 49 RBIs despite having missed two weeks in late May and early June with a left hamstring strain. Holliday also has one of the top on-base percentages in the NL, .424.

Such invitations never lose their luster, Holliday said.

"I don't think it can ever be old hat," Holliday said. "I think being in Yankee Stadium, it being the last one in Yankee Stadium, it'll be special. I sort of had that goal coming into the year, that I wanted to be a part of that."

Holliday, who has said he will participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby if asked, said he will be happy to show Cook around during All-Star festivities.

"Getting to go with 'Tito' [Fuentes] and having him already been to one, the first time I got to go, he kind of helped me with the side stuff, the autograph stuff, and some of the stuff you don't really know much about," Holliday said. "Hopefully, I can help [Cook] out if he needs it. It's always nice to have a teammate there."

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