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Four Sox players to make All-Star appearance in Arizona

David Ortiz Boston Red Sox

With a payroll of more than $160 million and a lineup hailed last winter as one of the best ever, you'd think that the 2011 Boston Red Sox could have field half an All-Star roster. Instead, the injury-plagued team is sending just four players to the Midsummer Classic next week in Arizona.

It's no secret that the Red Sox have had some great and not-so-great moments, from starting 2-6 in early April to going 8-1 on their best roadtrip since 1977 in early June. Boston's recent battle through injury has been burdened by guys like David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Josh Beckett -- all of whom will play in this year's All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix.  

Each player has experienced a breakthrough in a different way for this team. Ortiz has put a halt to retirement talks and re-emerged as one of the AL's most potent hitters. Gonzalez has been everything the Sox hoped he would be and more. Ellsbury's comeback story is nothing short of spectacular as he leaves his troubled 2010 season in the rearview mirror. And then there is Beckett, a key piece to Boston's 2007 World Series team, who is starting to earn the $68 million extension that kicked in this season.

Big Papi grabbed over six million fan votes to earn his seventh selection to the summer classic. And he'll also be captaining the AL Home Run Derby squad when All-Star week festivities begin on July 11, part of a revamped format this year. 

After three consecutive years (2008-2010) as a National League reserve selection, Gonzalez (.348 BA/16 HR/75 RBI) was selected a starter at first base for the American League.

"I've always said that it's great to make an All-Star Game," he told the Boston Globe earlier this week, "but you've still got another half to play so you have to continue to play hard."

Ellsbury is having the best season of his career and it could not have come at a better time. Just one year removed from the debacle that was a season-ending rib injury, the electric center fielder is tied for third in the AL with 104 hits and first in the league in steals, with 27. As a first-time All-Star, Ellsbury deserves to be considered as one of the top five leadoff hitters in the game today.

The only Red Sox pitcher to make the All-Star Game this year, Beckett started the season as a middle-of-the-rotation starter but has become the de facto ace on the heels of a Cy Young-caliber first half in which the righthander has gone 7-3 with a 2.12 ERA. Beckett makes his third All-Star appearance as a reserve after rebounding from a dismal 2010 (6-6, 5.78 ERA).

And with injuries to the Sox' core pitching staff, the team will be riding their ace's shoulders harder than ever as he attempts to pick up the slack left by the disabled Clay Buchholz and soon-to-be-disabled Jon Lester. Buchholz has been out since June 16 with a strained back. Lester left last night's game against the Blue Jays in the fourth inning with a strained left latissimus dorsi muscle.

At 50-35, the Red Sox are1.5 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees. With just five games left before the All-Star break, the team will be looking to pick up some easy wins versus the Blue Jays and Orioles, while giving their battered roster a couple of extra days off. After all, can you imagine this squad heading down the stretch having to rely on J.D "I can't-hit-the-ball" Drew and John Lackey? 

Video: 2011 All-Star starters announced

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