Yanks have major workload after ‘vacation’
SAN DIEGO — Carlos Beltran quickly reminded reporters that at 39 he is not the oldest player on either All-Star squad. American League teammate David Ortiz of the Red Sox is 40, the same age as Beltran’s Yankees teammate, Alex Rodriguez. National League pitcher Bartolo Colon of the Mets is older than all of them at 43.
“I’m great, man,” Beltran said. “I feel happy. I feel blessed. I’m 39 years old. Most of the guys here, other than Bartolo and David — I’m the third oldest player in the All-Star Game. Just being able to be here is gratifying and, for me, it’s motivational.”
Beltran certainly earned his ninth All-Star selection with a strong first half in which he has led the Yankees in all three Triple Crown categories — batting average (.299), home runs (19) and RBI (56). Relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller earned their All-Star berths as well.
Considering the Yankees only played .500 ball (44-44) to the break it is a credit to all three that they earned the trip here to Petco Park, one of baseball’s most striking facilities in the city with the most pleasant weather in the United States.
The AL earned home field advantage in the World Series with a 4-2 victory. Betances and Miller were among the 10 pitchers AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals employed in the game. Betances gave up a hit and threw a wild pitch in the seventh inning but did not allow a run and had two strikeouts. Miller had a rougher time of it in the eighth. The lefthander loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with two out and needed relief from the Astros’ Will Harris, who ended the threat with a called strikeout of the Cardinals’ Alemys Diaz.
The All-Star break is baseball’s vacation, even for those who travel to the game. Beltran’s nagging hamstring limited him to no more than one at-bat. It was doubtful that he would play the field, but he actually manned right field for the sixth and seventh innings as a replacement for the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has gotten Beltran at-bats as the designated hitter, which has relegated a slumping A-Rod to the bench. In his only plate appearance, Beltran flied out to center field.
Once vacation is over, however, the Yankees have to get back to the business of trying to work their way into contention for the AL East title or at least one of the wild card entries. They are 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles in the division and 5 1/2 back of the second wild card berth. They have quite a few clubs to climb over to accomplish their annual goal of reaching postseason play.
“It has to happen,” Beltran said. “It has got to be this; it has got to be in the second half. We have to find a way to play better, man. I know I have said this all through the first half, but I do believe we have what it takes to compete and be contenders in our division. But we have to show it. We haven’t shown it yet.”
Beltran also recognizes that the upcoming homestand after the break that includes visits by two division leaders (Baltimore and NL West leading San Francisco) after a series with rival Boston could be a do-or-die stretch of games. Already there is debate about whether the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline of Aug. 1. Beltran and the Yankees’ No Runs DMC trio of relievers that also includes Aroldis Chapman could be helpful to any contender should general manager Brian Cashman decide to move any of them for needed prospects.
“I’m prepared for anything,” Beltran said. “I love where I am, but at the end of the day, we understand that we don’t know what route the team is going to take. I do believe that home stand will be an important one.”