Andrew McCutchen's spot on the National League All-Star team was never in doubt, though leading all NL outfielders in fan voting put a new twist on his selection. The selection of two fellow Pirates added some intrigue to the occasion.
Left-handed reliever Tony Watson and do-it-all utility player Josh Harrison joined McCutchen as Pirates representatives heading to the All-Star Game July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis. Watson and Harrison made their first All-Star teams, while McCutchen earned his fourth consecutive spot.
"It's a great feeling," McCutchen said. "Definitely an honor. I'm happy I'm going to have some guys to accompany me out there."
McCutchen, 27, the 2013 NL MVP, is hitting .324 with a .424 on-base percentage and a .547 slugging percentage, all of which rank among the league leaders. He leads the league in walks, has 13 home runs and has stolen 13 bases.
"Just to be on the All-Star team is enough for itself," McCutchen said. "To be number one, it's a plus. It's really cool."
McCutchen became the first Pirates player to start an All-Star Game since Jason Bay in 2006.
While fans voted for McCutchen, NL manager Mike Matheny selected Watson and Harrison. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle will serve as an assistant coach for the NL.
"Something that I wasn't expecting but definitely honored to even be in the conversation," Watson said. "And now to actually know that I'm going just feels tremendous."
Watson, 29, has an 0.89 ERA in 402/3 innings, the third-best mark among qualified NL relievers. He strikes out 10.8 batters per nine innings and earlier this season had a span of 261/3 innings in which he did not allow an earned run.
"You just got to stay consistent and go out there and take care of your work and what you can control and go out there and have fun, attack the strike zone, let the defense work," Watson said.
Harrison, who turns 27 Tuesday, has started games in right field, left field, second base and third base this season. He took over right field after Jose Tabata and Travis Snider did not produce, then moved to second for two weeks when Neil Walker went on the disabled list. Harrison is hitting .298 with a .335 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, 12 doubles and 9 steals.
"The past couple weeks, guys have been saying, 'You ready to go Minnesota? You ready to go to Minnesota?' You never really know," Harrison said. "[It] was definitely a relief. It's definitely a blessing, a dream come true."
Hurdle announced the selections to the team before the game Sunday.
"Those guys, they earned their way there," McCutchen said. "Both of them. Watson's been lights-out all year and J-Hay's just getting opportunities. Every opportunity he gets, wherever he is, he's making the most of it."
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.
First Published July 6, 2014 12:00 AM