Emotional Rhodes finally an all-star

Published 1:04 am Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Arthur Rhodes recently got summoned to manager Dusty Baker’s office for the news: The Cincinnati Reds were trading him to the New York Mets.

It was a joke. Yet, the way his journeyman career has gone, Rhodes believed it. And why not?

“He already had the team picked out,” Rhodes said. “I was a little emotional.”

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Then Baker gave Rhodes the real message. He was going to a new team, all right — his first All-Star team, at age 40.

The reliever is still receiving and responding to congratulatory text messages from former teammates and friends around the majors.

Everybody seems to be thrilled for Rhodes, who thought he would be picked to pitch in a Midsummer Classic well before his 19th big league season. Like in 2001, when the left-hander went 8-0 for Seattle, with five of those wins before the break as the Mariners rolled to an AL-record 116 victories. Or during his 10-4 campaign in 2002.

“I didn’t know it was going to take this long,” Rhodes said Monday, a day before the game. “Now it’s 2010 and I made it, and I’m so proud of myself. I’m 40 years old and I go out there and work hard every day. It was a long time, but now I’m here, and I’m happy.”

Baker played the same prank on Scott Rolen and Brandon Phillips, who also made the All-Star team from the NL Central-leading Reds. But with Rhodes it had extra meaning.

Baker considered it a true highlight to give the good news to Rhodes, who was lost at what to say.

“I just got silent and quiet and couldn’t say a word,” Rhodes said. “I just said ’Thank you very much.”’

Baker immediately knew just how much it meant to the pitcher.

“You’re welcome, Pops,” the skipper replied.

Rhodes, 3-3 with a 1.54 ERA in 41 outings for the Reds this year, fought emotion Monday as he described what it’s like to finally be suiting up alongside the game’s biggest names for this All-Star game at Angel Stadium.

He’s come a long way from his early days in Baltimore when there were questions whether he would last for the long haul — and, if so, in what role. Starter, long man, closer, he’s handled every job there is. He was willing to do anything asked of him to keep his place.

Six teams later, at the tail end of a career that began inauspiciously with the Orioles back in August 1991, Rhodes can forever call himself an All-Star. It’s obvious he’s one of the happiest guys here.

“This whole experience is wonderful. I’m soaking it all in,” he said. “I’m having the best time of my life right now. I’m just going to enjoy every moment that I can.”

Rhodes should be ready to pitch, too. NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Phillies hinted at that. The National League is trying to end a 13-year drought.

“We need some left-handed pitching in there because I looked at the American League and they have some really good left-handed hitters,” Manuel said. “And in the space of the game moving along, we might want to put some lefties on a couple of them.”

That would be the perfect conclusion to Rhodes’ special run.

“I know Charlie will want to win. He can use me in the sixth, seventh, eighth, whatever,” Rhodes said. “Over the last week and a half … every time I went home I was thinking about it, looking at the envelope and the schedule. It was a good moment for me.”

One that will surely last at least as long as Rhodes has.