PHOENIX -- Manny Acta quietly walked out of Chase Field Monday night having done his part to punctuate another semi-chaotic Home Run Derby Day.
Acta's role? Last-minute pitcher for Adrian Gonzalez in the day's big event, in which the Red Sox first baseman would finish one home run shy of the eventual winner, Robinson Cano.
“He didn’t have anybody to throw to him,” said the Cleveland manager, who had no previous history with Gonzalez. “I was just sitting at my locker reading and he said, ‘Hey, I’m still looking for somebody to throw to me.’ I overheard him and said, ‘I’ll throw to you.’ So he said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was good to see. He has unbelievable hand-eye coordination.”
The real last image -- other than singer Ce-Lo playing a few quick songs at the All-Star Gala before calling it a night -- was Red Sox slugger, and American League HR Derby captain, David Ortiz beating his chest as to the players he selected for the event.
When it was all said and done, not only had Cano put on an unforgettable show in hitting 3,573 feet worth of home runs, but the AL side had out-homered its NL counterparts to a tune of 76-19.
"Tito, look out. I'm coming to get your job," said Ortiz, looking into the television cameras while addressing Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I made the right choice. That was an unbelievable show out there by my teammate Cano and my teammate, Gonzo."
Here are some are some other happenings from what is viewed by many as the first of a two-part springboard for the season's crunch-time:
ANDRE ETHIER TALKS REUNION WITH DUSTIN PEDROIA … WITH THE DIAMONDBACKS
The rumors have circulated for a few years now: Andre Ethier wants to come to Boston to join forces with his college teammate, Dustin Pedroia.
While Ethier didn't dismiss the notion completely, he did take the diplomatic route when asked if the Dodgers All-Star could see himself reuniting with Pedroia.
"Maybe when we're 38 years-old we'll end up playing here on the Diamondbacks together for the last year or two," said Ethier, who will be eligible for his final year of arbitration following the 2011 season.
"Maybe one day we'll have an opportunity to play with one another. It would be fun. Right now he has his thing in Boston. We're trying to do what we're doing in LA. If the paths meet somehow I guess it would line up perfect for us."
Ethier resisted any sort of gloating regarding his presence at his second All-Star Game while Pedroia seemingly just missed the cut.
"He has a lot more awards in his trophy case than I do, so I can't say anything about All-Star Games," the 29-year-old said.
Ethier not only has remained friends with Pedroia since their college days, but still work out together in the offseason, while also taking family vacations together. So when the outfielder was asked about the second baseman's up and down first half, Ethier offered a educated perspective
"Relax, right? The Laser Show," he said. "He's a great player. I think he's had a great year up until this point. He's coming off a tough injury. I saw it first-hand all winter the steps and the stuff he had to do just to get to the point he's at now. I kept telling him to slow down, take a month or two later than he actually did. But being him he wanted to come back right away. He's done more than enough to help that team. Once he starts getting that rhythm and starts feeling himself again, especially with the way that lineup is, the way that team is, he's going to flourish."
HEATH BELL IS KEEPING AN EYE ON JONATHAN PAPELBON
San Diego closer Heath Bell admitted that while his priority is focusing on the current season with his current team, he is keeping an eye on the closing situation with the Red Sox. Boston’s current closer, Jonathan Papelbon, is, after all, slated to become a free agent following this season.
“I look at free agency as, ‘I’m unemployed,’ and I really don’t want to be unemployed,” said Bell, who is the final year of his current deal with the Padres. “I knew Papelbon was a free agent, but that was about it, just because my friend Adrian [Gonzalez] was over there, so I wanted to see if I could go over there. That’s about it. I haven’t really thought much about it. I’m just worried about the games of right now. I’m not really worried about the offseason.”
According to a major league source, the Red Sox have not engaged Papelbon in talks regarding a contract extension at any point this season.
Bell has been rumored to be on the trading block as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. He currently has 26 saves to go along with a 2.43 ERA in 37 appearances.
“I’d say my dad and my mom have worried about that, my wife. They’re worried about where I’m going to go,” Bell said. “I can’t handle that. If it happens, it happens. Do I want it to happen? No. Is it a reality? Yes. I’m fine with it. I just take it as I’m going to work my butt off and give everything I have to the San Diego Padres.
“When they tell me that I’m with Philly or St. Louis or Texas or the Yankees or the Angels or whoever it is, then I’m going to give my heart and soul to that team. Until then, I’ve got 24 teammates right next to me.”
One team of interest to the Red Sox that has been linked to Bell has been the Yankees, who would use Bell in a set-up role for Mariano Rivera.
“I don’t want to set up, but if I got traded to a team that was heading to the playoffs and they needed me to set up, I would definitely set up,” Bell explained. “I know I’m going to become a free agent, and I want to close after that. I definitely want to close. But if they ask me to set up the last two months of the season, then I would. I know how to do it. I know how to bust my butt, go out there, pitch the eighth inning or get the seventh and eighth. I’ll do anything to win.”
ADRIAN BELTRE REALLY WANTED TO COME BACK TO BOSTON
You would think that Adrian Beltre's dream of returning to the Red Sox died when the Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez in early December. Not the case, said the now-Texas Rangers third baseman.
"They made a great choice. I think Gonzalez is one of the best, if not the best, hitters in baseball. But I thought I had a chance at that time that maybe both of us could (be on the Sox)," Beltre, now a two-time All-Star. "All I know was I wanted to be on a team that had a good chance to win."
Beltre, who would sign with the Rangers a month after the Gonzalez trade, was then asked how such a dynamic could have possibly happened, with the former Padre manning first base, Kevin Youkilis at third, and David Ortiz serving as the designated hitter.
"I have no idea," he said. "But they could figure something out."
Beltre, who is having another standout season (.273, 19 HRs), reiterated that he is extremely happy with his choice, the Rangers. The owner of a five-year, $80 million deal is in the process of buying a home in the Arlington, Texas area after previously solely putting down roots in Southern California.
But if you asked Beltre where he was going to end up when the 2010 season came to an end, his first answer most likely wouldn't have been with Texas.
"I thought I had a good chance to go back to Boston," said the 32-year-old. "It didn't change until a couple of weeks before I signed."
REMEMBER WHEN JUSTIN UPTON WAS GOING TO BE A RED SOX
The fact that Justin Upton was sitting among the National League All-Stars Monday showed exactly why Red Sox fans were bombarded with the outfielder's name last November.
He is young (23). He is good (.293 batting average, 15 HRs, 14 SBs). And he is under contractual control through 2015 with his salary never getting above $14.5 million. (He makes just $4.25 million this season, and $6.75 million next year.)
Upton now finds himself as one of the hosts for this year's All-Star Game, still serving as part of the foundation for the Diamondbacks. But this past offseason, he was being dangled by Arizona, and the Red Sox were at least listening.
"When I first started to hear (the rumors), you don't pay that much attention to it, but then you start thinking, 'Where am I going to be in a few weeks, a few days?' You you just try and go about your business," Upton said. "You just try and let it roll off your back.
"To be honest with you, when I first found out I was playing golf and then I just kept playing golf. I wasn't too worried about it. If you worry about it all the time you'll never make it."
Upton's tone became pointed when it was then suggested Arizona was entertaining a potential deal in order to motivate the outfielder.
"That's a terrible way to motivate somebody," he said. "If that was their reason behind it, that's ridiculous."
SCOTT BORAS IS A BIG FAN OF JACOBY ELLSBURY
Much like many agents, Scott Boras was roaming through the room during both leagues media availability. But the final scene, after all the players had left their mini-stages and walked away with the signs donning their names, was that of the agent and a few of his agency cohorts gathered around Jacoby Ellsbury to check-in with their client.
Needless to say, they are all big supporters of the Red Sox outfielder.
“Obviously when athletes go through injuries, this was not the type of injury that there would be a high risk of skill diminution. Because of that, we weren’t really concerned about him returning to who he was as a player,” said Boras. “The kind of rehab you have to go through is sometimes a very difficult path when you have an athlete who is a quick-twitch athlete, a lot of striding muscle. He has to take a very extensive approach to get that done.
"He did that," Boras added. "We’re glad he’s healthy and we’re seeing what we expected to see from Jacoby."