HOUSTON -- A quartet of Red Sox are ticketed for the 2011 All-Star Game, including a first-timer in Jacoby Ellsbury, who could have never imagined this honor a year ago.
The speedy center fielder had so many left rib woes in 2010 that he was limited to just 18 games, making it fair to wonder how long it would take him to get back into the swing of things this season.
All Ellsbury has done is put together a stellar first half, one that led to players around the league picking him as a reserve for the American League team.
"I was really happy for Ellsbury, because I think this probably meant a lot to him," said manager Terry Francona. "I don't need to talk for him, but [this symbolizes he's] kind of arrived. What he's doing, it's recognized throughout the league. I think that's terrific. Saying that, I thought we could have had a few more guys."
In one week, Ellsbury will fly to Phoenix with teammates David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.
"You're going to be playing with the best players in the game," said Ellsbury. "It's always been a dream of mine to play in this game. It's here, so I'm excited."
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played on July 12 at Chase Field in Phoenix. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans, having already decided the starters, this week will have the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard rates may apply.
Ortiz is the most veteran of all the Red Sox All-Stars, receiving the honor for the seventh time, and fifth as the starter. On the ballot as a designated hitter, Ortiz received 6,324,793 votes, the fourth highest of any player in the Majors.
"Representing the Red Sox once again, it's an honor for me, and it's a great time," said Ortiz. "It's fun. It's something that the fans really enjoy. Those few days, you really get worn out, but it's worth it because the fans put a lot of enthusiasm into it. Pretty much everybody is hanging out with their family, and you get to know some of the guys that you'd like to know how they are, besides being good baseball players. It's a good time."
In addition to playing in the game, Ortiz will have a chance to defend his title in the State Farm Home Run Derby. Not only that, but he has been selected along with Prince Fielder as co-captains of the Derby. Ortiz gets to choose three teammates from the AL to swing for the fences with him, and one will be Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is an All-Star for the fourth time, but this is the first time he was voted in as a starter.
"It's always good," Gonzalez said. "I always said it's great to make an All-Star Game. We've still got another half to play, so you've got to continue to play hard. But it's nice to be able to represent the Red Sox and everybody else."
Beckett celebrated his third trip to the All-Star Game by pitching on Sunday afternoon against the Astros.
The righty capped off his selection by reeling off eight dominant innings in a 2-1 win.
"It's pretty good," Beckett said. "It's a great honor. I'm pretty sure I got voted in by my peers again, and I wouldn't have it any other way. That's a really special way to be voted in, by the people I've competed against."
Much like Ellsbury, Beckett's All-Star berth is a sign of his dramatic resurgence. Back woes limited Beckett to just 21 starts in 2010, and he went 6-6 with a career-high 5.78 ERA.
Beckett is 7-3 with a 2.12 ERA, which is second in the AL. Beckett leads the league in opponents' batting average at .178. His Fenway ERA is 1.17, nearly a run lower than any other pitchers' home ERA.
Beckett's co-ace Jon Lester fell short of a second straight All-Star nod, despite 10 wins and 105 strikeouts.
"Is it nice to go? Yeah. Is it disappointing not to go? Yeah, but at the same time, it's nice to get a break," said Lester.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, third baseman Kevin Youkilis and setup man Daniel Bard are other players who were in the running for All-Star nods.
"We're a team full of talent," said Gonzalez. "We have a few guys in it, and like you said, a few guys that deserve to [go]. You experience this, I think, with every team. There's always guys that should've made it but didn't, and guys that are deserving that are in it. A team like this, where you have not just a few but plenty of guys that should be in it, that's just the way the game is."
But Gonzalez, in his first year with the Red Sox, left no doubt about his candidacy by putting together a monster first half. He entered Sunday leading the AL with a .353 average. That, to go along with 16 homers and a Major League-leading 74 RBIs and 200 total bases.
"Gonzo is a great kid," said Ortiz. "We hit in the same group and everything. We start pushing each other when we're hitting in batting practice. If I hit one out, he comes and hits two, and then I go and hit three and he goes and hits four."
While Ortiz is enjoying his first summer with Gonzalez, he has seen Ellsbury since the outfielder arrived in the Major in 2007.
"Ellsbury is the kind of guy that I always get on him, because, sometimes, you've got the skills to play the game and sometimes you just don't know or sometimes you don't get to show them," Ortiz said. "Since Day 1, I always try to get on him so he goes about his business. I tell him, 'You've got no idea what you've got on your hands.' Last year, he went through what he went through. I always tried to get his back and tell him, 'Hey, go get it.' Watching him making the All-Star team makes me feel proud of him."
"He helps our team win games in 50 different ways," Pedroia said of Ellsbury. "We're proud of him and excited for him."
On July 12, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game