Jordan Walden takes Mariano Rivera’s All-Star spot

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It’s a veritable passing of the torch.

The game’s all-time closer, Mariano Rivera, makes way for new blood, rookie Jordan Walden, as the AL named the Angels reliever to the All-Star Game on Thursday.

Walden was the choice even though he’s tied with Matt Capps for the major league lead in blown saves by a closer with six.

The league was set on replacing Rivera with a reliever, but there were plenty of better choices based on 2011 performance.  Rivera’s Yankee teammate David Robertson was one of them.  Walden’s own teammate, Scott Downs, has been much more effective as a setup man than Walden has as a closer.  Boston’s Daniel Bard, Balitmore’s Koji Uehara and Seattle’s David Pauley also would have been valid choices.

But none of them have 19 saves.  So, Walden it is.