PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway watches the flight of his first-inning double Wednesday night. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.
PAWTUCKET â€” Mauro Gomez earned a spot on the International League all-star team last season, the third straight year he earned a midseason honor.
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Ryan Lavarnway was a Carolina League all-star in 2010, and Pedro Ciriaco picked up his last minor-league all-star honor three years ago in the Southern League.
That being said, when was the last time Justin Germano, the fourth member of the Pawtucket Red Sox named to the I.L.â€™s all-star team early Wednesday afternoon, selected to a squad?
â€ś(The) 2002 (season) was my one and only,â€ť he said with a smile. â€śItâ€™s been a while.â€ť
It has indeed been a while for the veteran starting pitcher, who in his third season of pro ball, was a Midwest League all-star pick with the Fort Wayne Tincaps, the Single-A team of the San Diego Padres.
In the decade since then, he had bounced around among five organizations and even had stints in Japan in 2009 and Korea at the end of last year.
He pitched in 79 big-league games, 36 of them starts, with the Padres (2004, â€™07, â€™08), Cincinnati Reds (2006), and Cleveland Indians (2010, â€™11), as well as nearly 200 games in the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
The 29-year-old Germano has â€śseen it allâ€ť in his long career, and now he can add his first Triple-A all-star appearance to his credentials on Wednesday, July 11, when the I.L.â€™s best takes on the Pacific Coast Leagueâ€™s top guns in the 25th annual Triple-A All-Star Game at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, N.Y.
â€śI didnâ€™t expect it, but itâ€™s an honor to be voted,â€ť said Germano. â€śItâ€™s always cool to be part of something (like this). Iâ€™ve been working hard, trying to put up consistent numbers, and Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough to do that.â€ť
While his teammates have been voted to the team as starters, Lavarnway at catcher, Ciriaco at shortstop, and Gomez at designated hitter, Germano has not received word whether he will start for the I.L., but so far this season, he has certainly made a strong case to earn that nod.
In 16 games, 15 of them starts, Germano is 8-4 with a 2.60 ERA. He leads the league in innings pitched (97) and is also second in wins, third in WHIP (0.96), fourth in opponent batting average against (.216), and fifth in ERA.
Germano also ranks among the leagueâ€™s leaders in the fewest walks (13) and baserunners per nine innings.
â€śI made a couple of tweaks to my mechanics and I think thatâ€™s whatâ€™s been helping me out on the field this season,â€ť noted Germano. â€śIâ€™ve been keeping the ball down, hitting my spots, and getting that late action on the ball to get guys to (swing and) miss.
â€śBut I think most of all, Iâ€™m just trying to stay consistent. Iâ€™ve been able to do that so far, and hopefully, I can keep it up in the second half.â€ť
While Germanoâ€™s numbers are impressive, so are the ones by his teammates, particularly Gomez, who was an I.L. all-star last season with the Gwinnett Braves during a year that saw him bat .304 with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs.
This season, Gomez is eighth in the league with the same .304 average and tied for fourth in homers (16) and RBIs (50). He also has a league-leading 24 doubles, and heâ€™s second in the I.L. in slugging percentage (.600) and fourth in total bases (150).
Ciriaco, who earned five all-star honors during his six seasons (2003-09) as a minor leaguer in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, picked up this yearâ€™s berth with a .307 average that is good for fifth in the league and some excellent defense at shortstop (33 games) and second base (22).
Lavarnway, meanwhile, is third in the league in batting (.312) and has seven home runs and 35 RBIs. His bat has really come alive this month, for in 18 games, he is batting .403 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
â€śThose guys are all very deserving,â€ť added PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, who will also serve as a coach on the I.L. squad, and a few days earlier, for the World team in the Futureâ€™s Game in Kansas City. â€śItâ€™s a great honor for them, especially when the spots are so limited like that.â€ť
Among the other I.L. players on the team are Buffalo Bisons pitcher Matt Harvey, the 31st ranked player in MLB.comâ€™s Top 50 prospects, Indianapolis Indians outfielder Starling Marte, the 32nd ranked player, and Buffalo closer Fernando Cabrera, who totaled 44 saves in 2009 and â€™10 with the PawSox.
The PawSox, along with the Charlotte Knights, are the only two teams with four players on the all-star team. The record for PawSox players on the I.L. all-star team is five, set in 2008 when Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter, Jonathan Van Every, Joe Thurston, and Charlie Zink were selected.