Ibanez goes from overlooked to All-Star

Ibanez goes from overlooked to All-Star

MIAMI -- You would think it's been a hectic week for Raul Ibanez, who played in his first All-Star Game, then traveled to South Florida to start the second half of the season playing in front of family and friends in his hometown.

"But actually, Wednesday night was definitely the best night's sleep I've had in a long time," the Phillies outfielder said.

That's because Ibanez was finally able to sleep in his own bed, the bed that sits in his offseason home close to Land Shark Stadium, and close to where he spent most of his life before being drafted.

Those first few years, right up to the point when he was a 36th-round pick by the Mariners in 1992, Ibanez was the overlooked kid who couldn't catch a break.

He was brushed aside at nearby Miami Sunset Senior High School, overlooked by college scouts and had to take an offer to play at Miami-Dade Community College and wasn't given much attention in the First-Year Player Draft.

But look at him now.

He's averaged 25 home runs and 112 RBIs the last three years, is fresh off being named an All-Star, and after going 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs on Thursday, his numbers through 65 games this season are eye-popping: .312 batting average, 24 home runs and 63 RBIs.

Talk about perseverance.

"If you will things into existence, have faith in yourself, have faith in God, and you keep moving forward and you ignore the negative stuff, good things will happen," Ibanez said before Thursday's 4-0 win over the Marlins. "Most of the people that are saying you can't do anything have never done anything, and that's why they believe things can't be accomplished. ... Tune out those voices and tune into your voice and what you believe. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It only matters what you think."

Friday will be just the eighth time in his 14-year career that Ibanez will be playing in his hometown, going 8-for-29 with three homers and seven RBIs, and the 37-year-old said he normally leaves about 30 to 60 tickets for family and friends.

On Tuesday, Ibanez took his starting spot in left field for the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium, and right next to him, along with teammates Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth, was center fielder Shane Victorino, who was also making his first Midsummer Classic appearance.

To Ibanez, that was the biggest thrill of all.

"Taking the field with the best players in the game, and playing with the best players in the game, was a great experience," said Ibanez, who finished 0-for-2 as the National League fell to the American League, 4-3. "And what made it extra special for me was having my teammates and staff with me. My manager coaches, a lot of teammates that you take the field with every day. It was Shane's first All-Star Game and getting to be right next to him, that was awesome."

Pitching matchup
PHI: LHP Cole Hamels (5-5, 4.87 ERA)
Concerned about the toll on his young left arm, the Phils decided to give Hamels an extra day of rest out of the All-Star break. Hamels threw 227 1/3 innings last year, 183 1/3 in 2007 and 132 1/3 in '06. "His workload has been increased tremendously," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "So we still got to get Cole in the right mind-set." Hamels has been inconsistent this year. His seasons of ups and downs reached another trough Saturday, when he allowed three home runs to the weak-hitting Pirates. He only received a no-decision because the Phillies rallied for five runs in the ninth.

FLA: RHP Ricky Nolasco (6-7, 5.76 ERA)
Following a rough start to the year, the Marlins' Opening Day starter was optioned to Triple-A to try to figure some things out, and it seems like he did. Since returning from his Minors stint, the 26-year-old is 4-2 with a 2.68 ERA in seven starts. In his last outing, though, Nolasco gave up seven runs in six innings against the D-acks. He's 4-3 with a 4.25 ERA in his career against the division-rival Phillies.

Tidbits
The Phillies on Thursday promoted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Taylor, a 23-year-old taken by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, was batting .333 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs in 86 games for Double-A Reading. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder also sported a .408 on-base percentage and .977 OPS. ... Right-hander Clay Condrey, on the 15-day disabled list since June 19 with a left oblique strain, was back in the Phils' clubhouse after pitching for Class A Clearwater on Wednesday, and manager Charlie Manuel said he's "real close" to coming back. The 33-year-old has made three rehab appearances for the Threshers. ...Ibanez has hit safely in 16 straight road games, batting .319 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in that span. ... After recording his fifth consecutive win Thursday, 46-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer stands alone in 40th place on the Major Leagues' all-time wins list with 255.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN

On radio
• WPHT 1210, WUBA 1480 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Phillies (Joe Blanton, 6-4, 4.44) at Marlins (Josh Johnson, 8-2, 2.74), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Phillies (J.A. Happ, 6-0, 2.90) at Marlins (Andrew Miller, 3-4, 4.50), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Phillies (TBD) vs. Cubs (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.