Renteria returns to All-Star form
Shortstop is one of three Atlanta players on NL roster
PITTSBURGH -- As Andruw Jones spoke to the media at The Westin in downtown Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon, the table next to him sat vacant. Assigned to it was a man responsible for much of the success both he and the Braves have enjoyed this season.
While Edgar Renteria remains reluctant to speak to large groups in such settings, he's had no problem using his bat and glove to loudly announce his return to the National League. His success this year may come as a surprise to the Red Sox nation. But those who have played with or against the Braves shortstop aren't at all surprised to have him join them at this year's All-Star Game.
"I think [Red Sox fans] never let him develop into the player that he knows that he is," said David Ortiz, who played with Renteria in Boston last year. "Everybody knows that Edgar is a superstar. He's a great player and I have a lot of respect for him."
Red Sox fans began booing Renteria in April last year and continued to do so as he committed a career-worst 30 errors and hit just .276 with eight homers. Those jeers have been non-existent this year in Atlanta, where Braves fans have seen him play sound defense (eight errors in 78 games) and hit .318 with nine homers.
"He's a tremendous baseball player," Jones said. "He didn't really have a bad year over there. He just struggled defensively. I'm sure everybody would struggle defensively there, because [of the quality of the Fenway Park infield].
Like the Red Sox management improved their infield by installing a new surface in the offseason, Renteria has enjoyed his own face lift, provided by the December trade that sent him from Boston to Atlanta. This is his fifth All-Star selection, and because of Jose Reyes' injured right index finger, he'll be making his third start in the Midsummer Classic.
During Monday morning's press conference, National League manager Phil Garner announced that Renteria would start at short and bat fifth in Tuesday night's All-Star Game at PNC Park. It's a fitting honor for the key offseason addition, who has been one of the few consistent forces the Braves have had this year.
"We're not where we want to be," Jones said. "But without him, we probably wouldn't even be there now."
Even with the great improvement they showed while winning 10 of their final 16 games before the All-Star break, the Braves will enter the second half trailing the Mets by 13 games in the National League East race. It seems more likely for them to gain entrance into the postseason via the Wild Card race, which they trail by a more manageable 6 1/2 games. But Tom Glavine, who was in Atlanta for 11 of the first 14 consecutive division titles the Braves have won, knows he and his Mets teammates will hear from the Braves during the season's second half.
"It's too early [to write the Braves off]," Glavine said. "They certainly have struggled in the first half and are in a position none of us are accustomed to seeing them in. But if you ask anybody, certainly on our team, they'll tell you they're going to be heard from before it's all said and done."
It's like the Braves find themselves in the same position that Renteria did during the offseason. Though he'd been a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and three-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, many were ready to write him off at the ripe age of 30.
But while recording a career-best 23-game hitting streak to begin the season, he quickly silenced his critics and proved he could be the catalyst the Braves envisioned. His only struggles came in June, when he hit .260. Consequently, the club struggled through a miserable month in which they won just six of 27 games.
Renteria has quickly turned things around, hitting .447 (17-for-38) this month. Without coincidence, the Braves have won six of the nine games they've played in July. With this surge, he's further proven to be a very capable replacement for former Atlanta shortstop Rafael Furcal, who departed via free agency in December.
"After we lost Furcal, he's been our savior," Brian McCann said. "He's come in and played unbelievable short. And he's one of the best hitters I've ever seen. He's a professional. He goes about his business in the right way. He's a good guy to look up to."
While this is the fifth All-Star Game for both Jones and Renteria, McCann is experiencing his first of what he hopes to be many. But for now, the 22-year-old catcher is simply savoring the experience he's earned by hitting .343 in the season's first half.
Even with his accomplishments in his first full Major League season, McCann has still remained a somewhat obscure figure. During the morning press conference, Garner referred to him as "Mike McCann".
When told of this, McCann simply provide a smile indicating he understood. It was also one that showed he's just happy to be in Pittsburgh, experiencing the All-Star Game with guys like Renteria, Jones and Glavine, who made his Major League debut in Atlanta when the young catcher was just three years old.
"I feel out of place," McCann said. "You look around and you see names that have been doing this for 10 or 15 years that are future Hall of Famers. Then you look up here and you see my name. It's an honor."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.