'Nuts have 4 all-stars
Catcher Curtis Thigpen, pitcher Chi-Hung Cheng, infielder Juan Peralta and shortstop Jason Armstrong will be reserves in tonight's Minor League-A version of the mid-summer classic.
"It's always good to make an all-star team," Thigpen said. "It's fun and exciting."
Manager Ken Joyce announced Sunday that Armstrong would join the other three players in Peoria, after being selected as an alternate to step in for one of the other all-stars who had moved up or had been placed on the disabled list.
Armstrong is the only Lugnuts player hitting over .300, with a minimum of 10 games played. On the season, he has 31 runs scored, a team high 66 hits, 30 runs batted in and 13 doubles.
Peralta, who has not played in a couple weeks due to a problem with a muscle in his right forearm, had been the team's catalyst until he was injured. In 48 games, he's hitting .291 with 22 runs scored, 46 hits and 29 RBIs.
"For me, it's great," Peralta said last week. "I feel excited and very happy to go and represent the Lansing Lugnuts and the Blue Jays, too."
Joyce said Peralta is in his second year in the Midwest League, after not moving up to AA baseball and has been impressed with the attitude the young Dominican player has brought this season.
Another player Joyce has been impressed with is Taiwan-native Cheng, who has been one of Lansing's best pitchers. Currently, in 13 games, he's posted a 3.39 earned run average in 66 1/3 innings with 74 strikeouts and a 3-4 record. The pitcher also has impressed his teammates.
"Cheng goes out and strikes people out," Thigpen said. "I'm not sure what his numbers are, but he's been pretty impressive at times."
Thigpen hasn't been too bad himself, catching more than he ever has in his life, according to his manager. Thigpen has played in 61 of the Lugnuts' 69 games and leads the team in walks with 45, total bases with 93 and tied for first in RBIs with 30.
"He's doing a nice job blocking balls behind the plate and offensively he's never been a problem," Joyce said. "He's got great hand-eye coordination, he puts the ball in play and, when he needs to, he can knock the ball out of yard."
One of the hardest things in Minor League Baseball is to select all-star teams because players are always moving up and switching teams. Three other former Lugnuts were selected to the all-star team this season, but were called up before the break - Casey Janssen, Danny Hill and Chip Cannon.
As it has always been, there is difficulty when Minor League teams are trying to find the balance between individual and team.
"It's an individual honor, but at the same time for all of us it's a team thing, too, because I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing without the guys around me," Thigpen said.
"It's tough because while you're trying to do the best for yourself to move up, you still have to do what's best for the team.
"That's where there is a fine line between college or high school baseball and Minor League Baseball - it's a job and you're getting paid to play. If someone else is doing better than you, it could be taking money away from you."