NEW YORK – Steve Delabar’s story was a compelling one when he merely got a September callup with the Mariners in 2011. Making the All-Star team has elevated it to a new level.
Delabar was a substitute teacher and high school baseball coach in Kentucky, his career having flamed out because of a severe elbow injury, when the Mariners signed him to a minor-league contract in April of 2011. It seems that Delabar’s velocity had magically returned as the result of a conditioning program he had his own players on, which he tried himself.
Delabar made it all the way up to the majors in 2011, and was a part of the Mariners’ bullpen in 2012 until a July trade to the Blue Jays. The Mariners received outfielder Eric Thames, who was designated for assignment this season and now is playing in Baltimore’s organization.
Delabar, meanwhile, has put up a 1.71 earned-run average out of Toronto’s bullpen, with 58 strikeouts, third-most among American League relievers, in 42 innings. He won the Final Vote to grab a berth in the All-Star Game, which will be played one day before Delabar’s 30th birthday.
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“It’s unbelievable,’’ he said. “And I still wasn’t in until the fans voted me in. … I was out (of baseball), and now I’m back in the game and on one of the highest stages. It’s just a huge honor to be part of it.”
Delabar said he owes a debt of gratitude to the Mariners, and specifically GM Jack Zduriencik, for resurrecting his career.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “Obviously, he had a hand in my career and bringing me up. He was a huge part. It was his say that got me to the big leagues. That opened the door, and I’m here today because of his promotion.”
One of the first congratulatory texts Delabar received was from ex-teammate Tom Wilhelmsen, who has his own comeback tale.
“When I saw (Hisashi) Iwakuma and Felix (Hernandez), they said all the guys back there said to tell me good luck, and they’re happy for me,’’ Delabar said.
• Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman was one of the final additions to the AL All-Star roster, replacing Justin Verlander.
For Mariners fans, it was another reminder of one of the organization’s worst trades, the ones that sent, among others, Tillman and Adam Jones to the Orioles for pitcher Erik Bedard. Jones is an All-Star for the third time, starting in center field.
Tillman says both players have put the trade far behind them.
“We get that question a lot,’’ Tillman said. “People ask if we change our game when we go against Seattle. No. It’s just another game. We’ve moved on. That’s a thing of the past now. Every game is just as important.”
Tillman, who had struggled initially with the Orioles, broke through last year when he went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts. This year, he’s 11-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts.
“I think it was becoming a little more efficient in my delivery, my mechanics, my routine,’’ he said.
Tillman said it didn’t sink in he was an All-Star until he walked into the clubhouse Monday for a team meeting.
“Just seeing all those faces. I’ve seen them before, but being in same clubhouse with them is kind of jaw dropping.”
• Jones brought a gaudy WWE championship belt with him to New York, which he bestowed on Yoenis Cespedes, the winner of the Home Run Derby. Jones said the belt is authentic, given to him by pro wrestler Kevin X (aka Kevin Sharp).
“It represents my boisterousness,’’ Jones said. “This is my present to the Home Run Derby winner, hopefully with a hardcore match right after it. I’m going to keep it. This is mine. But I’ll let him hold it for a little bit.”
|Former Mariners stars|
|Pitchers Chris Tillman and Steve Delabar are two of the five former Mariners players who will be in uniform Tuesday for the All-Star Game.|
|Player||Mariners years||The deal|
|SP Chris Tillman, Baltimore||2006-07*||Feb. 8, 2008, traded to Orioles with 4 others for Erik Bedard|
|RP Steve Delabar, Toronto||2011-12||July 30, 2012, traded to Blue Jays for Eric Thames|
|OF Adam Jones, Baltimore||2003-07||Feb. 8, 2008, traded to Orioles with 4 others for Erik Bedard|
|SP Cliff Lee, Philadelphia||2010||July 9, 2010, traded to Texas for Justin Smoak, 3 others|
|DH David Ortiz, Boston||1994-96*||Aug. 29, 1996, traded to Minnesota for Dave Hollins|
|*Minor leagues only|
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com.