7/14/2014 7:50 P.M. ET
After beaning, Chapman 'blessed' to be an All-Star
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- On March 19 during Spring Training, the notion of returning to the All-Star Game was way down on the list of priorities for Reds closer Aroldis Chapman.
It was that evening in the sixth inning against the Royals in Surprise, Ariz., when Salvador Perez hit a 99-mph Chapman fastball up the middle. In an instant, the ball struck Chapman in the front of his face. He was removed by a stretcher and taken to a hospital.
The following day, Chapman had surgery to repair fractures above his left eye and nose. By May 11, he already was off the disabled list and back pitching in the Majors. On Monday, he was at Target Field with the National League All-Star team.
Not only is Chapman an All-Star for the third straight year after being elected on the player ballot, but in 29 appearances, he has a 2.12 ERA with 21 saves in 23 chances. Over 29 2/3 innings, he has an astounding 60 strikeouts with just 10 walks. He set a Major League record among relievers with at least one strikeout in his last 41 games dating back to last season. Of his last 16 batters, he has struck out 13 with only one ball being put into play.
In his past years, Chapman's triple-digit fastball would be the answer to why he is so dominant. This year, hitters have more trouble to deal with. Since coming back, Chapman has developed a 90-mph changeup and a slider as plus secondary pitches.
"People always asked me before if I was only a hard thrower, a flamethrower," Chapman said. "I started using the [other] pitches and showed the people that I can use them and they know who I am. I feel I'm using my pitches and knowing how to locate me pitches has helped me to be here."
Frazier, Jeter recall '98 meeting at Stadium
MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the more unique storylines from the All-Star Game is that Reds third baseman Todd Frazier is participating for the first time for the National League while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is playing for the 14th and final time in his career.
In 1998, Frazier's Toms River (N.J.) Little League World Series championship team was honored at Yankee Stadium. A 12-year-old Frazier, then a shortstop, took the field for the national anthem and stood next to Jeter.
"I'm just looking around like a kid in a candy store," Frazier said Monday. "I talked to him three years ago. We worked out together in Florida for a little bit. I said, 'Do you remember that?' He started laughing. He said, 'Holy cow, don't tell anybody.' That's just the way he is. He's a happy-go-lucky guy and I can't wait to see his final All-Star Game playing against him."
"It means I've been doing it for a long time -- a very long time," Jeter said. "It's great to see guys that you run into when they're young. There's been plenty of players I've played against that have said I had an opportunity to met them earlier in my career. I enjoy those stories."
Cueto cool with not pitching in All-Star Game
MINNEAPOLIS -- Reds ace Johnny Cueto certainly had the numbers to start for the National League in Tuesday's All-Star Game. But because he pitched for his team Sunday against the Pirates, Cueto bowed out and will have to be a spectator instead. Teammate Alfredo Simon took his place.
Cueto had no hard feelings about not being able to pitch.
"It doesn't bother me," Cueto said Monday through translator Tomas Vera. "I pitched yesterday. It was my job. I came here to enjoy it. I came here to have fun. This isn't going to be my first time. I'm going to have a chance to pitch in the All-Star Game again."
Cueto is second in the NL with a 2.13 ERA, first with 143 2/3 innings, a .181 opponents' batting average and a 0.89 WHIP and tied for first with three complete games.
Now Cueto is looking forward to watch other players having strong season take part.
"I want to enjoy this. This is amazing," he said. "I never expected this amount of friends here, this amount of people. One thing I always wanted to watch was the Home Run Derby. I've watched it on TV. Now I'm going to be there in the first row watching the Home Run Derby. I'm going to enjoy that."
Mesoraco appreciates Reds sticking by him
MINNEAPOLIS -- In his first season as the Reds' regular catcher, Devin Mesoraco is an All-Star. The significance of being part of the National League squad and the first Reds catcher to be in the game since Bo Diaz in 1987 was not lost on him.
"It means a lot. To be given that opportunity in the offseason meant a lot. To reward them with the choice they made to stick with me and give me the opportunity means a lot," Mesoraco said on Monday. "I've had a lot of faith in the organization. Coming up, I struggled at times in the Minor Leagues. They always stuck with me and felt like we knew what we have. It's just going to take time. It's the same thing as when I got to the Major Leagues. It took time for everything to kick in but everybody believed in me."
Mesoraco, who batted .212 as a rookie in 2012 and .238 last year, is batting .304/.375/.609 with 16 home runs and 45 RBIs in 60 games. The success came despite two stints on the disabled list -- first for a strained oblique in March and a strained left hamstring in April.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, the NL manager and a former big league catcher, selected Mesoraco to be an All-Star.
"First of all, you can't deny the kind of season that Devin has had," Matheny said. "In the Central, we get a close look. Outside the division and in baseball, you can see he's put up exemplary numbers all the way through. I believe he's improved also on the defensive side, which I can't help but watch up close."
Mesoraco, who replaced a strong defensive catcher in Ryan Hanigan after he was traded to the Rays in the offseason, knew his defense had to be better if he was going to be a regular.
"If you're going to be catching every day, it's a lot different than if you're just catching a couple of days a week because of the demand on your body, the demand on being back there every day," Mesoraco said. "It takes a lot more effort. You have to have your mechanics fundamentally sound. I take a lot of pride in my defense. It's something that shows up every day."