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Baseball Blue Jays’ Roberto Osuna chosen as last-minute MLB all-star

After enduring a shaky start that inflated his earned-run average to 5.62 through eight appearances in April, Roberto Osuna brought it all the way down to 2.06 heading into Friday’s game.

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

Toronto Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna had to make some last-minute changes to his travel plans after Major League Baseball released its list of replacement players for the midsummer classic Friday afternoon. Instead of flying home for a week of leisure during the all-star break, the native of Juan Jose Rios, Mexico, will head to Miami as part of the American League team.

"I was paying attention [to the all-star rosters] in the beginning, and then when I saw the list and I wasn't on it, I was thinking about going home and having a good time with my family," he said ahead of the Jays' Friday evening game against the Houston Astros.

But the Osuna family itinerary changed, and they will instead go to Florida, along with Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer, Astros reliever Chris Devenski, Minnesota Twins reliever Brandon Kintzler and Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton, all of whom were late additions to the AL squad.

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Toronto first baseman Justin Smoak is the only other Blue Jays all-star. He was elected to start for the AL after winning the fan vote last week.

"It means a lot for me," Osuna said. "I dreamed about it when I was younger."

It's hardly a surprise the 22-year-old was a leading candidate to join the AL team in the event of an opening on the roster. Many thought his stellar 2017 should have earned him the job in the first place.

"Well deserved," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He deserved to go anyway. He'll get some recognition."

Osuna has been a rock in the Blue Jays bullpen this season. After enduring a shaky start that inflated his earned-run average to 5.62 through eight appearances in April, he'd brought it all the way down to 2.06 heading into Friday's game.

Setting aside the all-star nod, it had already been a busy week for the right-hander. After closing out Thursday's win, Osuna had registered saves on three nights in a row for the first time in his career, while improving his consecutive saves streak to 21 – the longest active streak in the majors and the fifth-best streak in Jays franchise history.

His save Thursday was not without controversy. Osuna was accused of showing up Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, who was the final out of the game. Correa said Osuna played up the final out by taking his time before making the toss to first base that ended the game.

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Osuna said he took his time on the play because he had to wait for Smoak to get to the bag, and that Correa wasn't exactly burning down the first baseline, either.

"I don't know why he thought I was showing him up, I was gonna flip the ball to first but Smoak wasn't there yet," he said. "[Correa] gave me a little time because he didn't run hard to first base."

Mini-controversy aside, the all-star recognition is a nice way for Osuna to end the first half of the season. While he achieved great success on the field, it was only a few weeks ago he told the media he was having some personal trouble away from it.

After taking a few days off to compose himself, Osuna returned on June 25 and picked up where he left off. In the six appearances since, he's allowed only three hits while racking up 10 strikeouts and three saves.

He said on Friday he was in a good state of mind.

"I'm really happy, because the All-Star Game is all I've got on my mind now," he said.

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Looking at his body of work from the past 2 1/2 seasons, which includes a 2.52 ERA over 178 2/3 innings, it's easy to forget Osuna is still in his early 20s, dominating what is considered one of baseball's most high-pressure roles.

Gibbons said he expects Osuna to be a force in baseball for a long time, and that the All-Star Game could give his profile a much-deserved boost.

"This will be a good opportunity for him, let the world look at him," Gibbons said. "I anticipate he will have a few of those appearances before it's all said and done."

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