Texas' All-Star picture could be all pitchers

Texas' All-Star picture could be all pitchers

ST. LOUIS -- Saturday's latest update of the All-Star voting suggests something might happen this year that hasn't happened since 1988. That was the last year the Rangers did not send a position player to the All-Star Game.

Lance Berkman was a distant second at designated hitter, while second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus and third baseman Adrian Beltre were all third at their positions. Nelson Cruz was sixth among outfielders.

If they aren't voted into the starting lineup by the fans, they could still earn a spot on the team as a reserve in the players voting. If they get shut out there, the Rangers would likely be represented by at least one pitcher. The last time the Rangers sent only a pitcher to the All-Star Game was in 1988, when Jeff Russell represented the club.

The Rangers' leading candidates are starter Yu Darvish and relievers Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan. The players will select five starters and three relievers. The rest of the staff will be selected by Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Nathan, a five-time All-Star, remains one of the premier closers in the American League. He is third with 24 saves with just one blown opportunity, he has a 1.72 ERA and opponents are hitting .157 off him. Mariano Rivera is a lock to be selected, and Oakland's Grant Balfour deserves strong consideration. Going into Sunday, the A's closer was 18-for-18 in save opportunities with a 1.17 ERA and a .193 batting average against.

Scheppers is 5-0 with a 0.97 ERA -- the second lowest among qualifying relievers. Opponents are hitting .175 off him. White Sox setup reliever Jesse Crain, who is 2-1 with a 0.53 ERA, is also a setup candidate. Jeff Zimmerman is the only Rangers setup reliever who has been selected to the All-Star team, back in 1999. The Rangers sent two relievers that season, with John Wetteland accompanying Zimmerman to Boston.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.