CHICAGO -- When White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pulled aside Esteban Loaiza shortly after he arrived
in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Sunday, his immediate first thought was that the
South Siders had pulled off another major trade.
Maybe the move even involved him.
"Ozzie told me he needed to talk to me, and I didn't know what was going on," said a smiling Loaiza. "I
thought something really important was going to happen."
There was no trade, but the news held great importance, as Loaiza surmised. It was especially significant
for the 32-year-old right-hander. Loaiza learned that he was selected to his second straight All-Star Game
and second of his career, serving as the lone representative for the first-place White Sox.
Esteban Loaiza / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
It has been quite a ride for Loaiza since arriving in Chicago. He started as a non-roster invitee to Spring
Training of 2003 and ended up on the cover of the team's Year in Review and 2004 media guide.
A trip to the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field was never in doubt for Loaiza. Not with an 11-5
record and 2.21 ERA at the break. The only question was whether Loaiza would get the start in front of the
This year's selection came as a complete surprise to the veteran hurler.
"I actually told Ozzie, 'How did I do that?'" said Loaiza with a laugh, talking about his reaction to Guillen's
news. "And he said, 'Well, I don't know. That's what I told them.'
"I'm really happy. I don' know who voted me in, but thank you very much. I'm really happy, but I'm also
A common refrain during the first half of the 2004 season is 'Why isn't Esteban Loaiza the same pitcher as
he was in 2003?'
The answer appears to be fairly simple: only a handful of Hall of Fame hurlers can put up the same
numbers Loaiza did last year in back-to-back seasons. Loaiza posted 21-9 record with a 2.90 ERA and led
the American League with 207 strikeouts.
He finished second in AL Cy Young balloting and tied a single-season mark for most wins by a Mexican-
born pitcher. It was a career effort for a pitcher who had never won more than 11 games prior to his arrival
on the South Side, was a sub-.500 pitcher for his career and had brought with him a mere 69 career
Loaiza is still getting the job done currently for the AL Central title contenders. He has an 8-4 record,
moving him within two victories of 100 for his career, and a 4.37 ERA in 17 starts. He has thrown two
complete games and one brilliant shutout in St. Petersburg against the Devil Rays.
The strikeout totals are down at 68, and his 18 home runs allowed are one more than he gave up during the
entire 2003 season. The league has moved a little more in tune with his deceptive cutter, but there's still
nothing wrong with Loaiza.
"I'm not throwing the ball like I did last year," said Loaiza, who has the highest ERA of any pitcher
selected for the 2004 All-Star Game. "I'm working on it real hard and I'm trying to win every single game.
It hasn't happened so far, but I have eight wins and I'm still shooting for 20."
Both Minnesota and the White Sox, the two teams leading the Central Sunday, had only one All-Star
selection apiece. The third-place Indians had four players selected -- pitcher C.C. Sabathia, catcher Victor
Martinez, outfielder Matt Lawton and second baseman Ron Belliard. Fourth-place Detroit will be sending
catcher Ivan Rodriguez (a voted-in starter) and shortstop Carlos Guillen.
Loaiza, originally from Tijuana, Mexico, currently lives in Southlake, Texas. He will be pitching in front of
his family with this year's game being played in Houston, a three-hour drive from his home. Loaiza
mentioned that his girlfriend, Ashley, has a lot of friends and family in the Houston area, and that their All-
Star break plans happily will have to be changed.
The reserves were picked, in part, through the ballots of players, managers and coaches from around the
American League. Loaiza was one of the players named to the team by manage Joe Torre, in conjunction
with Major League Baseball.
It was a surprise selection, with Mark Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu possessing better numbers than Loaiza
on the White Sox staff. But it also signals a show of respect for a pitcher who has more wins (29) than
anyone in baseball during the past two seasons.
"I'm not going to say it's a surprise because he's pitched real well," said Guillen of Loaiza. "But I think
(Paul) Konerko and Frank (Thomas), they've had a better year than he has. But good for Loaiza. Hopefully,
he'll enjoy it."
"They selected me and I'm going to the All-Star Game," Loaiza added. "But there are a lot of players here
that should go to the All-Star Game."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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