- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Wednesday’s midsummer classic in the Atlantic League will feature four Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
Starting pitcher Nick Green, reliever Charlie Manning, versatile outfielder/infielder Casey Benjamin and catcher Christian Lopez are headed to the league’s All-Star Game at Campbell’s Field in New Jersey, home of the Camden Riversharks. The league officially made the announcement Friday.
The Blue Crabs quartet is among 46 players in the All-Star Game, pitting the Liberty and Freedom divisions. The Blue Crabs are in the Liberty Division.
“It’s always an awesome feeling anytime you’re selected based on your performance,” said Green, a repeat All-Star from the Blue Crabs after earning selection a year ago. “You know you’re hard work is paying.”
Expansion Sugar Land matched the Blue Crabs with a league-low four All-Stars.
League-best Lancaster (42-25 overall entering Friday) boasts the most All-Stars with eight, followed by Bridgeport with seven. Long Island, Camden and York each have six and Somerset has five.
Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said his team actually had four more players originally selected but none of them can go for “various reasons.”
Outfielders Brian Barton and Jeremy Owens, infielder Chin-Lung Hu and starting pitcher Dan Reichert were the four Blue Crabs who would have also been All-Stars had they had been able to play in the game.
Osborn noted that player-coach Owens was the league’s leading vote-getter, selected by fans, media and the eight managers.
“I’m proud of the four that made it [from our team],” Osborn said. “I thought we had two more of our pitchers that could have made it. [Ricky] Barrett and [Eduardo] Morlan have been very good this half.”
With as many as eight players that could have been All-Stars from the Blue Crabs, Osborn said his team’s underachieving first-half record (30-37 entering Friday) really had nothing to do with ending up with just four representatives in the game.
“Bottom line is we have to play better despite having All-Stars or not,” the skipper said.
The All-Star break lasts from Monday through Thursday next week. Next Friday begins the second half of the season when every team’s record resets.
Like Green, Benjamin is also going to his second All-Star Game as a Blue Crabs player, initially doing so in 2010 when he hit a solo home run in a 7-1 win for Liberty.
This season, Benjamin is tied for the league lead with four triples while batting .296 with seven homers and 32 RBIs. His homers and RBIs are second best on the team and he played in the Mexican League for most of May.
Green was fifth in the league with a team-best 61 strikeouts entering his start Friday at home against Somerset at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium. His 3.72 ERA was 10th best in the league going into Friday. He had a 4-5 record entering the contest, which included four straight losses.
Before struggling in his last two outings, Green allowed three runs or less in 10 of his previous 12 outings and had just a 4-3 record to show for it. He went at least 5 2/3 innings in each of those 10 starts.
“If we can erase my previous two starts, the season has been pretty good so far,” Green said. “My goal [each start] is to pitch at least six innings and allow three runs or less. That’s a quality start.”
Green was the losing pitcher in last year’s All-Star Game as he allowed the first run for Liberty in what was a 7-0 losing outcome.
“It’s one of those things when you look at the box score, it was tough [to see I was the losing pitcher],” he said of his All-Star Game outing last year. “At the same time, it was a great experience. Clearly, you don’t want to lose at anything. Hopefully this year, we’ll be on the winning side.”
Manning owns a 2.67 ERA in 28 games throwing 30 1/3 innings with a strikeouts-to-walk ratio of 31 to 16. He has a 2-3 record.
Lopez is arguably the best defensive catcher in the league with a quick release and a powerful arm that makes him tough to steal against. He has also proven to be an asset to the Blue Crabs pitching staff, perennially among the best in the league. His bat has struggled since jumping out to a fast start, hitting .224.