UPDATED, 7:00 p.m.: Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard has been added to the National League all-star roster, Major League Baseball announced on Sunday afternoon, only hours before players were set to head home for the break. After Jordan Zimmermann pulled out of the game Saturday because of a bicep strain, the first-place Nationals were without an active all-star representative, which irked several on the team. Clippard’s addition ensures they will have one.
Clippard will replace the Atlanta Braves’ Julio Teheran, who started on Sunday and wouldn’t be available for Tuesday’s game in Minneapolis. This is the setup pitcher’s second all-star selection.
“I was surprised,” Clippard said after Sunday’s game. “Obviously coming into the last day of the break expecting to go home and spend some days there. They said they needed a guy because Teheran was pitching today and I’m honored to do it. I feel like the Nationals need some representation there. Jordan wasn’t able to do it because of his bicep and I was afraid we might not have anybody in uniform out there. I’m just happy to go out there and represent our team and maybe get into a game and see what happens.”
Clippard has been one of the most reliable and consistent relievers in baseball over the past several seasons and this season has been no different. He has a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings, has struck out 53 batters along with a 6-2 record. He is fourth in the majors with 19 holds. Other than a half-season stint as a closer in 2012, Clippard has served as the Nationals’ primary setup man for years, often facing the heart of the order in the eighth inning.
“I’m happy for him,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “He deserves it. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Werth did also joke with Clippard upon hearing the news earlier in the day, telling him “congratulations but sorry to hear.” Clippard had been hoping to spend most of the break in his native Tampa playing golf, about which he is passionate, and perhaps sneak a trip to the beach. Instead, he was given a handful of hours to adjust his schedule and tell his family to come to Minneapolis.
“They’re going to try and make it out there as soon as they can,” Clippard said. “Obviously, it was short notice for them, too. But they’re very excited. Going to get out there and spend some time with them. Should be a fun experience.”
Clippard would have enjoyed the four days off but understands the important of having a Nationals player in uniform and available for Tuesday’s game.
“I’m obviously honored to do it,” he said. “I think it’s a necessity to have the curly W out there in the All-Star Game and represent our team. So I’m happy to do it in that sense. Obviously, I would’ve liked to get a few more rounds of golf in during the break, but I’ll take one for the team here and go out there and represent us. I think I’ll still maybe buy a day when I can get out on the course. So I’ll be alright.”
Even after allowing a run in Saturday’s game, Clippard’s ERA ranks 16th among NL relievers and his 2.48 FIP is 12th best. Clippard was last an all-star in 2011. The Nationals have been among the best bullpens in baseball all season and, finally, one member of that unit with represent them in Minneapolis this week.
“We should have more than one representative,” Zimmermann said. “Clip’s going. I’m happy. I’m happy for him. He’s well-deserving.” Added Nationals starter Tanner Roark: “He’s a great person to having representing our team.”
Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny, who is managing the NL all-star team, could have easily picked Drew Storen to represent the Nationals. Storen has a lower ERA (1.20) and WHIP (0.90), but Matheny went with Clippard. Closer Rafael Soriano, who has a stronger case perhaps than both, said Sunday morning he wasn’t asked to attend the all-star game — and he wouldn’t want to anyway, preferring to go home to the Dominican Republic after being snubbed in the initial selection. Manager Matt Williams said he spoke with Matheny over the past few days. When Williams pulled Clippard into his office Sunday morning to deliver the news, it was bittersweet moment for Clippard.
“When I got called in [Sunday] morning, I was kind of fighting to get Drew in the game,” Clippard said. “Sori turned it down and he should’ve been picked in the first place. Kind of the cards just fell my way and I’m just kind of fortunate and really happy to represent us in Minnesota and hopefully everything goes well.”