Cook can book his flight to Kansas City
Rookie closer earns spot on American League All-Star team
ARLINGTON -- Some might call it improbable, others surprising. A's manager Bob Melvin deems it "quite the meteoric rise." But rookie reliever Ryan Cook thinks of his journey from Minor League starter to Major League reliever with closer duties and an invitation to this year's All-Star Game as "absurd."
"I never envisioned, one, being a reliever, and then once it happened, the path I've been on since," Cook said. "Obviously it wasn't the vision, so it's just kind of crazy. It's awesome, there's no doubt about it. It's very cool for me and my family and friends, and I'm just honored really to even be mentioned and then to be chosen and get to represent the Oakland Athletics and the long line of people before me who have done it."
Cook, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, was handpicked on Sunday as one of 13 pitchers by AL manager Ron Washington for the July 10 game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium after turning in an incredible performance over Oakland's first 79 games in his first full professional season.
The hard-throwing right-hander entered the day with a 0.97 WHIP and 1.59 ERA, which leads all AL rookie pitchers and is tied for eighth among all relievers in the league. His .109 opponents' average ranks second, as does his opponents' slugging percentage (.164), and he has not allowed a home run in 34 innings.
"He's definitely deserving of making it," bullpen teammate Grant Balfour said. "He's had a great year. I couldn't have thought of too many other relievers that have put up the numbers he's put up. Being the first year up here, it's obviously a great accomplishment, but I'm sure it's probably not going to be his last time. I'm sure he'll have many more."
Originally a 27th-round Draft pick by the D-backs in 2008, Cook has surely done his part for his newest team, following the trade that brought him to the A's alongside Jarrod Parker and Collin Cowgill for All-Star hurler Trevor Cahill and lefty reliever Craig Breslow during the offseason.
Having begun his professional career as a starter, posting an 18-21 record and 4.04 ERA in 56 starts over three Minor League seasons, Cook was converted to a reliever last year and led the Arizona farm system with 19 saves. He made his Major League debut with the D-backs on July 20 but struggled to the tune of a 7.04 ERA in 12 appearances.
Yet in donning the green and gold, Cook quietly earned a bullpen spot out of Spring Training and managed to string together 23 scoreless innings, marking the longest such streak to start a season by an A's pitcher on the Opening Day roster since at least 1918. In the 13 outings that have followed, he has allowed runs on just two occasions.
Progressively entrusted with pivotal eighth-inning situations in a setup role, Cook -- with help from a fastball that averages 95 mph and a slider that's even more devastating -- is now viewed as the closer, ahead of veterans like Balfour and Brian Fuentes.
"I've been thinking quite a bit about it," Melvin said. "You look at it and say, 'Here's a trade where Parker's probably the centerpiece,' even though Billy [Beane] did a terrific job targeting Cook. He was a guy he really always wanted. There was more uncertainty with him, and he had just pitched a little bit in relief, but as soon as we saw him throw bullpens in Spring Training, we're thinking, 'Wow, this guy could really be a nice usable piece for us in the bullpen.'"
"When the trade happened, everyone was talking about Parker," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "And Parker is awesome, but Cook, kind of coming out of nowhere, where no one really knew him or what to expect from him, I think it's great what he's done. It just shows you his work ethic. He's always working to get better, and it's showing."
Cook, who learned of the news via a phone call from Melvin on Sunday morning, said he initially planned to spend the All-Star break with his girlfriend, Jamie, relaxing in Napa Valley. Both will soon be booking flights to Kansas City, though, as will his California-based parents, Chuck and Brenda.
"Coming into the year, I was looking just to make the team and never, ever did I envision getting the results that I've gotten and then the opportunity to do this," he said. "I'm just truly blessed."
Cook, who will be joined at the All-Star festivities by Melvin, also was hoping to have a teammate by his side for the storied event, but Josh Reddick was left off the reserve list despite his 18 home runs.
Reddick respectfully declined to comment on Washington's decision, but Cook admitted he thought the outfielder would be the guy to go.
"He's been our best position player for us all year and unfortunately I guess he's not going," he said. "He deserved to go. I know it's tough, especially being in the outfield, considering all of the other guys in the league, but he's had a good first half for us and will continue to do the same in the second half, I'm sure."
"I talked to Wash some yesterday," Melvin said. "He's got a tough job. There are always going to be guys that should have made it but don't. Based on the fact you have to take one guy from every team, there's always going to be that discussion every year about the guys who should have made it. Certainly we would have loved to have seen Red make it, but I understand the decisions that had to be made, and that's just the way it is."
The A's are among four teams that did not have anyone selected through the players' or fans' votes, and this is the ninth straight year that they have been represented at the Midsummer Classic by a pitcher. Catcher Ramon Hernandez was the last position player to earn the nod, back in 2003.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 4:30 p.m. PT. 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 will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.