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Alex Burg’s defensive prowess earns Ducks catcher All-Star berth

The Ducks catcher Alex Burg #23 hit a

The Ducks catcher Alex Burg #23 hit a triple against Lancaster at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip on May 28, 2017. Credit: Daniel De Mato

While Ducks catcher Alex Burg may wish his offensive stats were a bit better, it’s hard to argue what he’s meant to the team’s pitching staff. The catcher, who’s in his first season with the Ducks and first season as an everyday catcher, helped guide a staff that held opponents to a .260 batting average in the first half and pitched to a 3.93 ERA. Those stats ranked second and third in the league, respectively.

In part for his defensive efforts, Burg was selected to the Atlantic League All-Star Game Wednesday evening at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, New Jersey, home of the Somerset Patriots.

“I’m super excited,” Burg said. “I wish I hadn’t gone into a little slump right after I found out I made the team, but I’m excited to go in, meet and hang out with some of these guys that we play with all season. I’ll see what kind of personalities other teams have.”

Burg got off to a hot start offensively, hitting .283 through the season’s first six weeks. But he cooled off in June and entered the All-Star break hitting .221 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 62 games (208 at-bats). However, there has been some offensive bright spots for Burg in the last month; he reached base safely in 10 consecutive games from June 14-26 and had four hits on June 3, one of only two Ducks to do that in the first half.

Burg also threw out 27 percent of base stealers, while accumulating a .984 fielding percentage during the first half.

“He’s been outstanding throwing the ball, handling the pitchers, calling the games and blocking balls,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said last week.

Baez added that he might give Burg some days off until he starts to turn his bat around.

“I know he can hit,” Baez said. “I know he’s been struggling lately, so that’s where I want to try to give him some days and try to get his legs under him.”

Burg, who was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2010, said he’s played in two other all-star games in his professional career: the California League vs Carolina League All-Star Game in 2015 and a 2011 Australian winter ball All-Star Game.

Burg joins four other Ducks in Wednesday’s game: pitchers John Brownell and Amalio Diaz, outfielder Angelo Songco and infielder Elmer Reyes.

Brownell is the elder statesman of the Ducks’ pitching staff and has proved to be a solid ace for the team. Brownell, who won his 50th game as a Duck earlier this season, is 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 15 starts. He’s struck out 57 and walked 31 in 94 1⁄3 innings. Brownell has won three of his last four starts, including seven strong innings in a 4-3 win over Southern Maryland Sunday in his last start before the break. He allowed three runs on seven hits, struck out seven and walked five.

Brownell’s seven wins tie him with five other pitchers for the league lead.

Diaz has been stout out of the bullpen, posting a 1.28 ERA. Diaz allowed five runs (four earned), 21 hits, 13 walks and struck out 29 in 29 innings. His first half was populated by a number of impressive streaks. He began the season with 11 consecutive scoreless appearances from April 20-May 17 and put together another 13 scoreless innings from May 23-June 24.

The Ducks’ offense didn’t have many bright spots during the first half, languishing at the bottom of the Atlantic League. But Songco and Reyes were the exceptions to an otherwise forgettable first half for the lineup.

Songco led the Liberty Division with 14 home runs. He hit .279 with 36 RBIs in 64 games and reached base in 16 consecutive games from May 8-24. Reyes hit .305, ninth in the Atlantic League, and had 31 RBIs and 11 doubles. He opened the season with a seven-game hit streak and had an eight-game streak from June 11-21.

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