CLEVELAND — Dylan Cease is among the best in the American League in several pitching categories.
He led the league in strikeouts for nine innings (13.01) entering Monday and was second in strikeouts (133) and fourth in ERA (2.45).
Despite the impressive numbers, Cease’s name did not appear Sunday afternoon when Major League Baseball announced the pitchers and reserves for this year’s All-Star Game.
“It’s disappointing, but I can’t control it, so I’m going to focus on what I can control,” Cease said before Monday’s 8-4 loss to the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field.
Cease will return to the mound Tuesday in Game 2 of a split doubleheader against the Guardians. Davis Martin is scheduled to pitch Game 1.
The Red Sox got off to a bumpy start on their last road trip before the All-Star break, as Lance Lynn allowed five runs in the first and never got out of the hole. Lynn allowed eight runs and nine hits over four innings.
Yoán Moncada hit a three-run homer in the third and AJ Pollock hit an RBI single in the fourth to pull the Sox within one. But the Guardians responded with three in the fifth.
Cease has built on his 2021 season, when he showed growth going 13-7 with a 3.91 ERA and 226 strikeouts.
He is 7-4 in 17 starts and his 2.3 WAR is seventh among AL pitchers. according to Baseball Reference.
“He’s got the kind of stuff that could be special,” Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said last week at Guaranteed Rate Field. “He has made great strides from the first year I got here until now.”
The All-Star pitchers and reserves were selected through a combination of the players’ ballot, a vote by players, managers and coaches, and by MLB, according to the All-Star Game release distributed Sunday.
Cease has received support throughout baseball after his name did not appear on the list. Former teammate Carlos Rodón told The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly that Cease “put together a better first half than a lot of guys on that list.”
Cease said Rodón’s comment “means a lot.”
“Carlos and I are good friends, so it was great that he supported me like that,” Cease said.
There remains the possibility that Cease could be added as a replacement if spots become available, which usually happens in the run-up to the All-Star Game. The game is scheduled for July 19 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
“A lot has happened in the last week, so I wouldn’t give up,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said.
Cease is focused on continuing to raise his game.
“In my mind, I think there is still room for improvement, as always,” he said. “If I keep focusing on what I think needs to be fixed and keep taking care of the basics and fundamentals, it should fix itself.”
Still, he’s glad to see some of the work he’s put in is paying off.
“It’s definitely more fun when you have good results, and this is definitely the most competent pitcher I’ve ever had, the best numbers I’ve ever put up, all of that,” Cease said. “It’s a bit disappointing that as a team we’re not where we want to be. That would be the most fun, good numbers and the team is doing well. But I’m pretty proud of myself and happy with a lot of the adjustments that have been made.”
Monday’s game was the first of four in three days against the Guardians. That’s followed by four in Minnesota against the Twins in first place.
The Sox fell to 41-44 with Monday’s loss, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote on Sunday“There have been many whispers of riots, cliques and a lack of player leadership within the clubhouse that is tearing this talented team apart.”
La Russa said of the report: “You always wonder who the sources are, where the information comes from. It really isn’t worth much unless you know that. I think I’m closer to that than whoever the sources are. Our coaches are closer to it. But you know, when you have expectations and you talk about them and they’re disappointing, there’s no free lunch.
“I like veterans. And I like the way our young people respond to their responsibilities and their willingness to step up. It’s a great mix. That’s why things like that are always something. Let’s put it this way: either the source is right or the coaches and I are wrong. So you choose. You look at us, you can agree anywhere: it’s the beauty of this situation. Everyone has their own opinion, as does the strategy. Either they are right or we are wrong.”
Cesar likes the chemistry of the team.
“Honestly, it makes walking into the clubhouse and the park so much more enjoyable,” he said. “I think this is a pretty close-knit group, so yeah, it’s definitely not a problem on this team.”