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For the first time since the 1990 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates had as many as three players in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. And for the first time since 1980, two of them are pitchers.
On Sunday, Kevin Correia joined pitcher Joel Hanrahan and outfielder Andrew McCutchen as the third Pirates player on the squad. They hadn't had as many as three representatives since 1990, when pitcher Neal Heaton and outfielders Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla received invitations.
As one Pirates player told me in the clubhouse the other day, “1990? Geez, that's 21 years ago. That's a long time.”
See, that's why the addition of Correia is an important one. It gives the organization even more credibility, the kind that it hasn't had in a while. It shouts out to the baseball world that the Pirates have a legitimate plan and are able to execute it, indeed. It tells prospective free agents that it really is OK to come to Pittsburgh, that they can be recognized for their achievements there just like anywhere else.
As general manager Neal Huntington said to me, "We had two (All-Stars) with Freddy (Sanchez) and Zach (Duke) a couple years ago, but this just feels different. No slight to Freddy and Zach, but to get the out-roar after Andrew didn't make the club (at the outset), to have Joel being about as worthy of an All-Star as you'll find in the game, then to have Kevin with 11 wins and be in consideration as a third member, it's outstanding for those guys. And it means that we're moving forward in the right direction."
The staff had an urgent need for an anchor at the start of the season, and Correia embraced the role immediately. His 11 victories rank second among National League pitchers. Nine of them came on the road, where the team matched the worst record in post-expansion history last season.
"Kevin wanted to go somewhere (as a free agent) where he could be at the top of the rotation," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Basically, he has been our lead guy in the first half. He prepares well and focuses well. He established a tone and a mindset for our pitchers to follow."
The All-Star selections were the first for all three players.The last time the team had two All-Star pitchers, Jim Bibby and Kent Tekulve were the representatives.
Better yet, Hanrahan and McCutchen did something in Phoenix that no Pirate had done in two years: actually played in the game.
Outfielder Nate McLouth was the last player to take part in the showcase event. In 2009, he had one hit in four at-bats in a 15-inning game at Yankee Stadium in New York. John Smiley was the Pirates pitcher to make an appearance. In 1995, he allowed two runs in two innings in the game played at The Ballpark at Arlington in Texas.
"People have kind of taken notice of what we're doing here," Correia said. "We had guys who were well-deserving of (the honor). There are some future All-Stars on this team also. Hopefully, we'll keep playing well and opening people's eyes."
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Paul Ladewski covers the Pirates for Piratesreport.com and the Ogden Newspapers. Unless otherwise noted, the quotes were obtained first-hand or from industry sources or official Pirates interview materials.