A's All-Star Cook comes a long way in one year

A's All-Star Cook comes a long way in one year

A's All-Star Cook comes a long way in one year
KANSAS CITY -- When thinking back to the guy who took the mound last July in Arizona, Ryan Cook doesn't recognize himself.

Making his Major League debut with the D-backs, Cook faced four Brewers batters. All reached base via hit or walk, and all but one scored. Cook didn't record a single out before being pulled.

"At that point, it's natural to wonder, 'Holy moly, what's this all about? Is this something I can do?'" Cook said.

Surrounded by a plethora of reporters on Monday talking about his first All-Star appearance, it's evident that Cook, now with the A's, realized he could -- and proved it to everyone around him during an improbable journey that, on Sunday night, included a ride to Kansas City on Felix Hernandez's private jet.

Oakland's righty reliever, 25, essentially went from Minor League starter -- he only began assuming relieving duties last year -- to Major League closer with an invitation from American League manager Ron Washington to this year's Midsummer Classic.

"It's awesome," Cook said. "I'm excited to be here. It's a true honor to be here. You look around you, and it's not really something you consider yourself to be a part of. I'm just truly blessed."

Having begun his professional career as a starter in a D-backs organization that drafted him in the 27th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Cook was converted to a reliever last year and led the Arizona farm system with 19 saves before getting the callup, only to struggle to the tune of a 7.04 ERA in 12 appearances.

Yet in donning the green and gold, after being traded alongside Jarrod Parker and Collin Cowgill for 2010 All-Star Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow, Cook quietly earned a bullpen spot out of Spring Training and managed to string together 23 scoreless innings, marking the longest such streak to start a season by an A's pitcher on the Opening Day roster since at least 1918. Since then, he has allowed runs on just two occasions for a 1.91 ERA, best among all AL relievers.

"It's really just been a wild ride this year," Cook said. "Coming into camp, not knowing where I stand or anybody in the organization besides the two guys I came over with, I just wanted to make the team. But this whole ride, coming so unexpected, I'm just trying to hang on and enjoy it."

"How does he not make the All-Star team?" fellow All-Star and former D-backs Minor League teammate Wade Miley said. "I knew all along his stuff was so good. It's exciting to see it on a stage here."

Cook is joined in Kansas City by his parents, Chuck and Brenda, and girlfriend, Jamie, along with longtime friend and ex-teammate Jordan Meaker -- reflecting a modest group for a rather modest guy.

"He's about as even keel as they come," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "But he comes out there with fire in his eyes and expectations of doing well. He's quite the competitor when he comes on the mound. He's a killer when he gets on the field."

"In the Minor Leagues, the transition to the bullpen, I was virtually thrown into the closer's role right from the get-go," Cook said. "I kind of only learned that role, so it just became me, and I really like the adrenaline rush and love the situations like that. You're kind of the last line of defense. It's make it or break it, and I like that. It's been fun."

The hard-throwing righty is one of five rookies in Kansas City, and one of 15 pitchers on the AL roster, not to mention perhaps the most unheralded of the otherwise well-known bunch that includes the likes of Justin Verlander, Hernandez, David Price, CC Sabathia and Jered Weaver.

Make no mistake, though. Cook wants to pitch.

"For sure," he said. "Absolutely. To be honest, it's going to be a fly by the seat of my pants thing. But I'll be ready any time."

The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 4:30 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.