MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers fans disappointed to not see Christian Yelich in the Home Run Derby won’t have to wait long to see the reigning NL Most Valuable Player when the 90th Major League Baseball All-Star Game gets underway tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Yelich, who did not compete in Monday night’s Derby because of back soreness, confirmed he will play in the All-Star Game after Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts put out a lineup with his name in the leadoff spot and playing left field.
“I wasn’t able to do the Derby just because the volume of swings that it was going to take,” Yelich told reporters Monday during All-Star media sessions. “I just didn’t think that is was going to be great for where I was at physically, and just didn’t know if I was going to actually make it through it, and wasn’t going to be able to give it the effort that it deserves.”
Yelich’s 31 home runs not only lead all of baseball but also represent the most hit by a Milwaukee player before the All-Star break. He was confident his participation wouldn’t have an impact on his swing — as has happened to some players in the past — but after dealing with back issues at times during the first half, Yelich opted to sit out the event to protect his body for another potential playoff push.
“I’m very disappointed that I wasn’t able to do it or participate in it,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity to do it in the future, and we can do it then.”
Yelich is one of five Brewers representing the NL in Cleveland. Catcher Yasmani Grandal and infielder Mike Moustakas were named to the squad as reserves, marking a significant accomplishment after both navigated through an uncomfortable winter of free agency.
Grandal turned down a multi-year offer from the Mets believed to be worth around $60 million and instead, signed a somewhat surprising one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Moustakas went unsigned for a second straight winter before finally agreeing to come back to Milwaukee at the start of spring training on his own one-year deal worth $10 million.
Both players have made a huge impact on a Brewers squad that went into the year with legitimate World Series aspirations. Grandal slashed .259/.372/.525 with 19 home runs, 48 RBIs and an .897 OPS in 84 games (76 starts). Moustakas is hitting .263 with 25 homers, 53 RBIs and an .885 OPS, also playing 84 games, and has held his own as a second baseman — a position he’d never played in his big league career — before sliding back over to third when Travis Shaw never shook out of a massive slump.
“This team, the front office, everybody who gave me a chance to come back here and play baseball, for believing in me to play second base, it means a lot,” Moustakas said. “It’s really a testament to our front office and our coaching staff for sticking with me in spring training, working hard and getting me comfortable over at second base. I’m just really excited to be going to Cleveland and representing this organization with these two and Yeli. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Reliever Josh Hader’s dominant first half resulted in a second consecutive All-Star selection. When his own back issues kept him from participating, starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff got his first career invitation, a worthy reward after establishing himself as one of the game’s best pitchers this season.
The right-hander shook off a slow start to become the first pitcher to win 10 games this season and went into the break ranked fifth in the NL with 126 strikeouts while posting a 3.67 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 108 innings.
“Just to be able to put it all together this first half is pretty cool,” Woodruff said. “It’s not something you ever thought would happen, but it did. It’s something you can’t take away.”
Including Hader, Milwaukee’s five All-Star selections match a franchise record set a year ago when Yelich, Hader, Jesus Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress all represented the NL in Washington.