One benefit of Thursday’s 18-inning game — if there was one — is that Twins fans at Target Field were on hand when it was learned Jorge Polanco was going to start at shortstop for the American League at the All-Star Game on July 9 in Cleveland.
Polanco was at short in the 18th inning when the Twins announced he had won, allowing fans to shower him with applause. And Polanco raised his hands in acknowledgment of their cheers.
It was fitting. When a player is voted into an All-Star Game — in this case a starting position — that means he’s the people’s choice. He will be the first Twins player to start at the Midsummer Classic since Joe Mauer in 2013. He is the first Twins All-Star shortstop since Christian Guzman in 2001 and the third Twins shortstop to start an All-Star Game, joining Roy Smalley (1979) and Zoilo Versalles (1963).
“I thank the fans a lot,” he said. “They help me win the vote. I’m very thankful for their votes and keep supporting us the rest of the season. I’m very thankful.”
Polanco led the first stage of voting, in which the top three vote-getters at each position — top nine for outfielders — moved on to a second vote to determine the starter at each position. Polanco, batting .321 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI, received 42% of the vote, beating Gleyber Torres of the Yankees (31.2) and Carlos Correa of the Astros (26.8).
“That’s a great moment for Polo, the organization, everybody involved,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s a class act. He’s a tremendous player. To say he’s earned this I think would be an understatement.”
Polanco has been among the top offensive players this season, with two five-hit games — one in which he hit for the cycle — and two four-hit games. He entered Thursday third in the AL in batting, tied for fourth in doubles, fourth in hits and third in total bases.
“I’m really happy for him because he’s done a great job and he’s worked hard over there,” third baseman Miguel Sano said. “I’m so excited for him. I told him congratulations.”
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz, first baseman C.J. Cron and outfielder Eddie Rosario also made the All-Star Starters Election, but Cruz and Cron finished third and Rosario sixth. They, and other Twins, still have a chance to make the All-Star Game as reserves, as the rest of the team is selected by a combination of player ballots and commissioner’s selections.
All-Star reserves will be announced Sunday, and a Twins team that has one of the best offenses in the league and has had one of the best records in baseball for several weeks should be represented by more than only Polanco.
But it was Polanco’s day Thursday as he was recognized as one of baseball’s best players during a season in which he signed a multiyear contract, played shortstop for a first-place team and now is headed to Cleveland as one of baseball’s best.
“I got to spring training ready to go and the team offered me a contract and I signed and felt really good, especially playing with this team I’m playing for,” Polanco said. “This is a really good team. These guys grind every day and give the best effort they can to win and I feel great playing for this team.”