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Red Sox sending six to St. Louis

Red Sox sending six to St. Louis

BOSTON -- In what has become a recent tradition, one that serves as a sign of their success and popularity, the Red Sox will send a sizable contingent to the All-Star Game, with six players named to the American League roster.

Highlighting the list is Tim Wakefield, who is an All-Star for the first time at the age of 42. Wakefield is the oldest first-time All-Star since Satchel Paige (46 years old) in 1952.

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Wakefield, selected by AL and Rays manager Joe Maddon, will have plenty of company on the flight to St. Louis.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and left fielder Jason Bay were both voted in as starters by the fans, and ace Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon were voted in by the players. First baseman Kevin Youkilis was another selection by Maddon.

"To go there with five of your teammates is a definite positive," said Papelbon. "You feel like you're going to the All-Star Game at full force. I feel like we deserve that, and everyone else going, I feel like they deserve it."

Boston is the only team that will have six players in St. Louis for this year's All-Star Game, which takes place on July 14 at Busch Stadium. The Rays and Mets each have four All-Stars.

"I was pleased," said manager Terry Francona. "I think our team is worthy of having a lot of representatives."

The Red Sox have a 49-32 record, the best in the AL.

"I always feel that teams that are in first place should have more players on the team," said Youkilis. "If the team is doing well, more guys from that team should be represented, because that team is having a great season. Usually that's the case, and it's a good thing this year that we have six representatives."

Of the six, Wakefield definitely stands out because of the dues he has paid along the way and the fact that he's been with the Red Sox since 1995.

"I feel very honored and humbled at the same time," said Wakefield. "Excited and nervous. I have a lot of emotions going through me right now."

Wakefield is 10-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 16 starts. His last time out, he surpassed Roger Clemens for the most starts in Red Sox history, with 383. For his career, which started in 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he is 188-160 with a 4.32 ERA.

"He's meant so much, not just to Major League Baseball but to the Red Sox, for sure," said Francona. "And to be able to see his face ... When they introduce his name, he's going to be one of the proudest guys."

In less than a year, Bay has become a household name to Red Sox fans, who have come to appreciate his powerful bat and steady demeanor. Because he plays for a high-profile team, his popularity has spread beyond Red Sox Nation, and the left fielder led the outfield balloting for the AL from wire to wire. Bay came to Boston on July 31, 2008, in the blockbuster three-way trade that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.

This is the third All-Star appearance of Bay's career but his first since 2006, and his first in the AL. Despite a recent slump, he leads the AL in RBIs and is tied for fourth in home runs, with 19.

"It's great," said Bay. "I think everybody would love to go as many times as you could. First time in the American League for me and getting voted in, it's pretty special."

Pedroia, coming off his Most Valuable Player season of 2008, is a sparkplug for the Red Sox. Though he slumped in June, hitting .222, he continues to be a key performer for the Red Sox in all facets.

Pedroia is hitting .290 with 59 runs, 93 hits, 24 doubles and a .393 on-base percentage. He has also played Gold Glove-caliber defense while stealing 14 bases.

"That's exciting," said Pedroia. "It's great to be voted in by the fans. Obviously, my numbers aren't as good as some of the other guys, but it's an honor to be voted in by [the fans]. I'll go in and play as hard as I can."

After nagging injuries hindered his performance last season, Beckett has been in top form for much of this year. He is 9-3 with a 3.67 ERA. This is the second All-Star appearance for Beckett, who was the winning pitcher for the AL in 2007.

Papelbon, who became Boston's all-time saves leader on July 1, continues to be a dominant force for the Red Sox. This is his fourth All-Star appearance in his four years as the team's closer. In 36 appearances this season, he is 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA, and he has converted 20 of 22 save opportunities.

"It feels good," said Papelbon. "I think this is one of those things where you put all that hard work in and sacrifice time, and this is one of the little things that make it all worthwhile."

Then there is Youkilis, who has emerged into a star the past two seasons. After finishing third in the MVP race to Pedroia and Minnesota's Justin Morneau in 2008, Youkilis continues to be a force, hitting .306 with 14 homers, 47 RBIs and a .429 on-base percentage. He has also been a stalwart defender, with the versatility to play third base until Mike Lowell comes back from the disabled list after the All-Star break.

"There's no words to describe the All-Star Game and how fun and exciting it is to play with some of the best ballplayers in all of the game," said Youkilis. "Just to be mentioned in the same group and category with guys like that, it's one of those fun experiences. Last year was an unbelievable time in New York. Hopefully, it's as enjoyable in St. Louis."

The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 14.

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.

Ian Browne 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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