Angels closer makes case to join Trout and Ohtani at 2023 All-Star Game

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
On the eve of the All-Star pitcher announcement, take a look at the season that launched Carlos Estévez’s name into All-Star conversations.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — When the 2023 All-Star rosters were announced earlier this week, seeing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani etched into the American League starting lineup didn’t come as much of a surprise. 

The two-way sensation who seems to break history every time he sets foot on a baseball diamond and the three-time AL MVP will represent the Angels at T-Mobile Park on July 11, but it remains to be seen if they will be the only Halos headed to Seattle.

The news about which pitchers and reserve players will complete the rosters will be announced on Sunday, July 2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. On the eve of that announcement, it’s worth noting another Angels player that has consistently put his best foot forward in making a case for the All-Star pitcher selection — Carlos Estévez. 

The 30-year-old closer has pitched to the beat of a 1.91 ERA through 34 games this season, going 20-for-20 in save opportunities after 33 innings pitched — the best performance of his career. He’s also kept his opponent batting average at .215.

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Estévez was first signed by the Colorado Rockies in 2011 to a minor league contract, and he made his debut with them on April 23, 2016. He spent the entirety of his career in Colorado until the Angels signed him as a free agent in 2022. As a Rockie, he pitched 302 innings, posting a 4.59 ERA with 312 strikeouts. 

Estévez’s career high record for saves going into this season was 11, a number that he achieved in his rookie season in 2016 and again in 2021. This season; however, is an entirely different story as the closer has been on an upward trajectory that not only rivals his past performances but completely tops them for a new set of career highs.

He achieved his 11th save of this season on May 19 against the Minnesota Twins, less than two months after he made his Angels debut. Since then, he’s added on nine more saves to make it 20 by the halfway point of 2023. 

Not only is he breaking through his career stats, Estévez is rewriting Angels franchise history. He is the only Angel in the club’s history to start the season and convert 20 save opportunities. The previous record was held by right handed pitcher, Lee Smith, who recorded 19 consecutive saves to kick off the 1995 season. 

On April 8 after securing a 9-5 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays, Estévez said this about his future goals: “I want to win games. That’s what we all want,” and looking back on the first half of this season, he is helping the team achieve that goal whenever he has the opportunity, growing into a critical piece in the Angels bullpen and succeeding when the Angels need to hold on to a lead.

To earn a spot as a closing pitcher on the All-Star team, Estévez will have to stand out among all American League closers. In terms of saves, Estévez ranks third in the league, falling behind Toronto’s Jordan Romano and Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase who are tied for first place with 24 saves. He also ranks below Baltimore’s Felix Bautista who has 21. 

Of those players, Estévez is set apart by his 1.91 ERA which lands him in the top two of AL pitchers with an ERA under 2.00 and 20+ saves. Clase and Romano were All-Stars last year, but if selected, this would be Estévez’s first time joining the All-Star team, an opportunity that manager Phil Nevin said he hopes he gets. 

“To me it’s a slam dunk,” said manager Phil Nevin before the team’s second game of a three game series against the leaders of the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I think he’s an all-star. I hope I get the opportunity to tell him in front of the group. It’s an important deal, and he’s very deserving of it.”