First-timer Iwakuma joining Felix in All-Star Game
Hernandez making fourth appearance in Midsummer Classic
SEATTLE -- Felix Hernandez earned his third straight American League All-Star bid and fourth overall on Saturday and this time "The King" will have some company as teammate Hisashi Iwakuma also was selected for the July 16 game in New York.
Hernandez has been the Mariners' lone All-Star representative the past two years, but Iwakuma also had his name called during Saturday's MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell after an outstanding first half.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge informed Hernandez and Iwakuma of their All-Star nods in a team meeting before Saturday's game against the Reds.
"The guys were really excited for both of them, but they've been down this road with Felix before," Wedge said. "For Kuma, it was a pretty neat experience. It was just nice to see how genuine their teammates were and excited for them, so that was a neat thing to be a small part of."
Hernandez said he plans to actually pitch in the game this year, as the past two seasons he didn't participate after throwing for Seattle on the final regular-season game before the break.
Iwakuma likely faces that fate this year as he's scheduled to throw his final start before the break on Sunday, July 14 against the Angels at Safeco Field. Hernandez is scheduled to start the prior game against the Angels, giving him an extra day of rest.
"It's unfortunate not being able to pitch," Iwakuma said through translator Antony Suzuki. "But then at the same time, you want to enjoy every moment being an All-Star -- enjoy the atmosphere."
Iwakuma was a three-time All-Star in Japan, but this is his first Major League selection after signing with Seattle last season.
Hernandez wasn't selected for the team in 2010, when he went on to win the AL Cy Young Award. He pitched one perfect inning in his first trip in 2009 in St. Louis, needing just seven pitches to set down Orlando Hudson, Albert Pujols and Justin Upton, but otherwise has been limited to a sideline role at the game.
In 2011, MLB rules precluded pitchers who threw on the final Sunday before the game to participate. Last year, the rules were changed to allow participation, but Rangers manager Ron Washington elected not to use Hernandez in the game after he'd thrown 113 pitches in a complete-game outing on the last day before the break against the A's.
Hernandez, who signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension this spring, has again been one of the AL's premier starters as he's posted an 8-4 record with a 2.69 ERA in 18 games with 130 strikeouts and 24 walks in 123 2/3 innings. Although this will be his fourth appearance, Hernandez was still honored by the selection.
"It's always exciting," Hernandez said. "To be a part of the All-Star Game with all those guys, it's always fun."
Hernandez threw his first perfect game last season and since '09 has the second-lowest ERA in the Majors behind only Clayton Kershaw and the second-most strikeouts and games pitched behind Justin Verlander.
Only four Mariners have been selected to more All-Star Games in franchise history: Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr. at 10 each, Edgar Martinez with seven and Randy Johnson with five. Alex Rodriguez earned four All-Star berths while with Seattle.
Iwakuma and Hernandez rank 1-2 in the AL in ERA, with Iwakuma leading the way with his 2.60 mark in 18 starts. The 32-year-old from Japan has posted a 7-4 record and has the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per inning) at 0.88.
Wedge referred to his All-Star pitching duo as "masters of consistency."
"You just feel good when they go out there," he said. "That's how you want to get with all your guys, but you know that they're going to be consistent. More times than not, they're not going to beat themselves. And they're very different in regards to how they pitch and what they do, but they've both gotten to the point where they've mastered what they do."
Iwakuma has struck out 103 batters with just 18 walks in 121 1/3 innings. He began last year in long relief in his first experience in the Majors, but he's gone 15-7 with a 2.62 ERA in 33 starts since moving into the Mariners' rotation on July 2, 2012.
Iwakuma has the lowest ERA among all AL pitchers with at least 15 starts since last year's All-Star break at 2.56, with Boston's Clay Buchholz second at 2.83 and teammate Hernandez third at 2.84.
The Mariners haven't had a position player in the All-Star Game since 2010, the last of Suzuki's 10 consecutive appearances in the Midsummer Classic. Seattle sent three pitchers in 2011 -- Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Brandon League -- and Hernandez was the team's lone representative the past two years.
For Iwakuma, who said he is looking forward to learning from his peers in New York, his first All-Star appearance was made even better by the fact he'll be joined by Hernandez.
"There is a special feeling with that because we've fought together, one and two," Iwakuma said. "And we've gone through a lot of challenges together already. It's very special for us."
From Saturday, July 6 to Thursday, July 11, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com for the final player for each League's All-Star roster.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th 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. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.