Derek Jeter is bowing out, sticking to his decision to celebrate 2014 as his final season wearing pinstripes. That exit comes just as Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances are on the rise, standing as some of the best that the American League has to offer.
Those storylines will come together as the trio of Yankees standouts make their trips to the All-Star Game, with Jeter, Tanaka and Betances having been selected to represent the Junior Circuit at the July 15 Midsummer Classic, to be played at Minnesota's Target Field.
It is the 14th All-Star selection for Jeter, a fitting venue for the 40-year-old shortstop to be honored near the midpoint of his farewell campaign.
"It feels good. All-Star games are fun," Jeter said after Sunday's 9-7 win in Minnesota. "I'm happy I get the opportunity to come back here. It would be special for me. It's the last one for me, so I'm glad I have the opportunity to go, but I'm extremely happy for Tanaka and Dellin, too. Those guys deserved it as much as anyone."
The Yankees' all-time franchise leader in hits, games, stolen bases, at-bats, singles and hit-by-pitches, Jeter is also tied with Lou Gehrig for the all-time lead in doubles after missing all but 17 games last season due to injury.
"After last year, just playing means a little bit more," Jeter said. "It's never a situation where I expect to go to the All-Star Game. I've never taken it for granted at all in my career any time that I've gone, and I've enjoyed each and every one of them. So I'm looking forward to this."
The only Yankee to play for the team before his 21st birthday and after his 40th, Jeter has returned strong for one last season. The selection snaps a tie with Joe DiMaggio and Mariano Rivera, both of whom were selected as All-Stars 13 times. Mickey Mantle was a 20-time All-Star.
The Yanks tried to keep expectations low for Tanaka as he made the jump from Japan to the Majors this offseason, with general manager Brian Cashman opining that -- for a price of $155 million, plus a $20 million posting fee -- the team might have acquired a potential solid No. 3 starter.
Fortunately for Tanaka and the Yankees, the right-hander has proved to be so much more. Wielding an arsenal highlighted by a world-class splitter that has been his dominant strikeout pitch in the first half, Tanaka has been the most reliable piece of the Yanks' rotation, with the team feeling like they will win every time he takes the mound.
Tanaka leads the Majors in both wins (12) and complete games (three) while ranking among the league leaders in several other categories. Because he is scheduled to pitch on Sunday for the Yankees at Baltimore, Tanaka will be replaced on the active roster and won't pitch in the All-Star Game, though he does plan to attend.
"It's obviously an event that not everybody can be a part of," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I'm very excited to get this opportunity."
After being demoted to Double-A Trenton as recently as 2012 to work on his command issues, the odds were stacked against Betances flourishing at the big league level, but the Yanks have finally hit the jackpot after moving the 6-foot-8 right-hander to the bullpen.
"I was emotional earlier, because it's been hard work," Betances said. "It's been a long journey from all the years in the Minor Leagues -- all the ups and downs, just to have such a good first half and for the players to vote for me, I'm truly humbled. It's a crazy feeling for me right now. I'm enjoying each and every day here. I'm blessed to be a Yankee."
A product of New York City, Betances has figured out how to harness his high-90s fastball and a nasty slurve/slider, turning them into strikeout weapons. Betances' first-half performance has drawn comparisons to the dominance that Rivera enjoyed in 1996, setting up for John Wetteland on a Yankees club that went on to win the World Series.
"I'm extremely happy for all of them," manager Joe Girardi said. "I think they're all deserving, obviously. To have two rookies going, that's pretty special."
Dellin Betances, RHP
Prior ASGs: None
ASG W-L: N/A
ASG stats: N/A
How he made 2014 AL team: Selected by players
Why he's an All-Star: Of Betances' last 119 outs, 62 have come via strikeout. His 13.95 strikeouts per nine innings, spanning 37 relief outings, represents the highest such mark in the Majors this season (min. 40 innings).
DYK?: Betances was born in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, then moved to the Lower East Side before starring at Brooklyn's Grand Street Campus High School. A Yankees fan growing up, he was in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium for David Wells' 1998 perfect game.
Quotable: "It's so hard, especially for middle relievers, to make the All-Star team. I didn't know what to expect. Guys kept telling me, 'You have a good chance of being there.' It's a crazy feeling." -- Betances
Derek Jeter, SS
Prior ASGs: 1998-2002, '04, '06-12
ASG W-L: 9-3-1
ASG stats: 11-for-25 (.440), five runs scored, one double, one homer, three RBIs, one walk, one hit-by-pitch
How he made 2014 AL team: Elected by fans
Why he's an All-Star: Fueled by terrific fan support, Jeter led at every checkpoint of All-Star balloting this year, holding off his top challenger, Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox. Jeter's performance isn't where it was in 2012, when he led the Majors with 216 hits, but he has continued to hit at the top of the order for the Yanks while playing almost every day.
DYK?: Jeter was the All-Star Game MVP in the 2000 contest played at Turner Field, going 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored in the AL's 6-3 victory.
Quotable: "I think it'll be great, and I think it's great for the fans. I think it's great for baseball, and I'm sure they have something special planned." -- Girardi
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
Prior ASGs: None in Majors (seven in Japan)
ASG W-L: N/A
ASG stats: N/A
How he made 2014 AL team: Selected by players
Why he's an All-Star: The Yankees are 13-4 in Tanaka's 17 starts, and he has recorded a quality start in all but one of those outings. He's the first Yanks rookie to throw three complete games in a season since Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez in 1998.
DYK?: Tanaka began playing baseball in first grade as a catcher, and he did not begin pitching until junior high school. He became a national icon in Japan after excelling in the Summer Koshien Tournament, striking out 458 batters over his high school career to shatter Daisuke Matsuzaka's previous national high school record of 423.
Quotable: "Obviously, I'm looking forward to it. To be part of it and to be able to meet with some of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues, that's going to be a great experience for me. If there's a chance, I'd definitely like to be able to talk with some of them and maybe pick their brains." -- Tanaka
Immediately following the announcement of the AL and National League All-Star rosters on Sunday, fans began voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Fans can cast their votes from a list of five players from each league until the winners are announced after the voting concludes on Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans help choose the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com and via Twitter in the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers, for the first time, will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 platforms that support MLB.TV, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.