Booker Among League's Best

Clippers' closer Chris Booker has been a dominating presence on the mound all season and his efforts have not gone unnoticed.  The International League's roster for the Triple-A All-Star game was announced earlier this week and Booker will be one of the league's players making the trip out to Albuquerque.

As of Friday, Booker's 21 saves were good enough for second place among IL pitchers. In 34 2/3 innings pitched, the 6'3" right-hander has a 1-2 record with a 3.89 ERA. Although he has been mentioned as one of the league's best all season, Booker was surprised to hear that he was selected.

"Actually it was kind of shocking," Booker said. "We were in a game in about the seventh or eighth inning and I heard the radio guy, Scott [Leo], say it. I was like ‘Whoa, ok.' I didn't know until I heard it then so it was pretty shocking."

In previous years, Booker had put up impressive numbers while pitching for Triple-A Louisville and New Orleans, but this is his first All-Star game. Clippers' pitching coach Steve McCatty said the selection was well-deserved.

"Booker's done a very good job for us," McCatty said. "Early on in the season, he had a really good splitter going that he's kind of been struggling with lately. Now, he's locating his fastball and throwing that. The splitter is starting to come back and he's just done an outstanding job."

Despite sitting in last place in the IL West, the Clippers had a handful of players who were worthy of All-Star consideration. Granted, the All-Star roster is full of players from other teams who are having career years, but Booker found it peculiar that he was the lone Clipper to make the IL squad.

"We've got [Brandon] Watson with a 43-game hitting streak," Booker said. "We had [Darnell] McDonald in the top 10 in hitting the whole first half. It was kind of shocking to be the only one off this team. We've also got Winston [Abreu] who's been throwing the ball well the whole time he's been here."

Watson was on Washington's roster when the All-Star team was announced, but he has since returned to Columbus. And McDonald's trade to Minnesota last week may have affected his All-Star status. Regardless of the absence of these stars, Booker said there will be a few familiar faces on the team. He played with Louisville first baseman Joey Votto while he was with the Cincinnati organization and he said he has played against several of these players for a few years now.

In addition, Booker should also see a few familiar faces in the crowd when he takes the field in New Mexico. "I think I'm going to fly my wife and my son over there," Booker said. "I talked to my sister today and she said her and my nephew might come out there too."

Most players anticipate the upcoming All-Star break because it is normally the only time all season when they can enjoy a few days off. When asked about what he would do if he wasn't traveling out west for the All-Star game, Booker said that he would instead be heading south to his home in Alabama.

"My son's birthday is July 12, so I would go home and be with him and my wife," Booker said. "And I guarantee we would go fishing one of those days."

During the second half of the season, the right-hander said he wants to work on his velocity and getting ahead in the count more often. However, if he merely continues to produce the way he has during the first half of the season, Clippers fans will undoubtedly be pleased with his performance.

Coach McCatty has been helping Booker all season long, but he said that all the credit that goes along with an All-Star team selection should go to the man on the mound.

"I don't know if it's any reflection of what we work on or try to do, but he's the one that does all the work and goes out during the game and has to do it," McCatty said. "That's just wonderful for him."

The Triple-A All-Star game will pit the best of the International League versus the top players of the Pacific Coast League. The game is set to take place on July 11th at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Game time is set for 7:35 EDT. 

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