Mauer, Pujols top vote-getters for All-Star Game
NEW YORK — In the year of the pitcher, no-hit aces Ubaldo Jimenez and Roy Halladay lead a formidable National League All-Star staff. Rookie sensation Stephen Strasburg will have to wait at least another season before he gets the nod.
AL MVP catcher Joe Mauer was announced Sunday by Major League baseball as the fans’ top choice for the July 13th All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif. Albert Pujols earned the most votes in the National League.
In the closest voting, the Mets’ David Wright overtook the Phillies’ Placido Polanco in the final week to win the NL starting third baseman spot.
Each squad still has one more spot to fill in their 34-man rosters. Fans will make the decision, choosing from a list of five candidates in each league in an Internet runoff.
Strasburg’s 100 mph fastball has captivated fans around baseball since the Washington Nationals called up the right-hander June 8, but NL manager Charlie Manuel would like to see 21-year-old settle into his role as an ace before making the Midsummer Classic.
“I looked there and I felt like, in my opinion, and I’m not his manager, but at the same time he’s a young kid,” Manuel said. “I say let him pitch and let him get his feet on the ground in the major leagues and kind of let him earn his way.”
Strasburg watched the selection show on a clubhouse TV, but was called away by Nationals management after the first couple of pitchers were selected.
“I thought he had a pretty good shot,” Nationals closer and All-Star pick Matt Capps said. “He’s one of the top pitchers in baseball right now.”
Halladay pitched a perfect game in his first season with the Phillies, and Jimenez had one of the four no-hitters this year and is off to a remarkable 14-1 start with a 2.27 ERA for the Colorado Rockies.
Halladay’s teammate Chase Utley was voted as the starting second baseman for the NL, but he is out with an injured right thumb. He will be replaced in the lineup by Atlanta’s Martin Prado.
Colorado’s injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was chosen as a reserve by his peers. His spot will be taken by the Mets’ Jose Reyes.
The other starters who will try to help the NL win its first All-Star game since 1996 are: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina; Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez; and Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, Los Angeles’ Andre Ethier and Atlanta’s Jason Heyward in the outfield.
Heyward, on the 15-day disabled list with a deep bone bruise in his left thumb, said Sunday he might play in the All-Star game, using the appearance like a rehab start.
In the American League, Mauer is joined by Minnesota Twins teammate Justin Morneau, the first baseman.
The other AL starters: Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Derek Jeter; Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria; Texas designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero; and Texas’ Josh Hamilton, Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford in the outfield.
The World Series champion New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have a leading six All-Stars each, but Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia and catcher Victor Martinez are out with injuries.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi made several difficult decisions in finalizing the AL squad. He left off Andy Pettitte and took teammate CC Sabathia, both 10-game winners, and selected slugger Alex Rodriguez, who only has 12 homers but 61 RBIs.
Manuel was refreshingly honest when asked why he chose Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and not Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, who has similar power numbers as Howard but a big edge in on-base percentage (.414 to .353 entering Sunday).
“He’s my guy, our player, my guy,” Manuel said of Howard, one of his two position player picks. Votto is on the final five list.
Among the other players having strong seasons who got left off are Kansas City’s David DeJesus (.325) and Billy Butler (.320), Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey (10-2) and San Diego pitcher Mat Latos (9-2).
NL West-leading San Diego Padres manager Bud Black was disappointed no one from the majors’ best pitching staff (3.06 ERA) made it — closer Heath Bell is an Internet finalist.
“From our perspective, it’s a little shocking,” Black said. “I thought we had some guys who were pretty good bets to make it.”
One surprising pick was St. Louis’ Matt Holliday. In the first year of a seven-year, $120 million deal, Holliday is batting .209 with runners in scoring position and has 39 RBIs — fourth-best on the team.
“I think he’s has pressed to make that deal look good, but he’s settling in,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “When you sign a deal like that you’re going to catch some extra attention, that’s just the way it is. He’s shown a lot of toughness and he’s on his way to a solid season.”
Cincinnati’s Arthur Rhodes made his first All-Star team at 40. In his 19th season, Rhodes has a 1.09 ERA in 37 appearances.
“His number speak for themselves,” Manuel said. “He’s got tremendous stuff and being left-handed definitely helped him.”
All-Star rosters were increased by one player to 34 this year, but there are always complaints about who’s absent. Blame that on all the factors that go into picking the squad every team must be represented, managers must deal with their own players, the need to have enough players at each position, nagging injuries and more.
The Braves and Cardinals each had five All-Stars to lead the NL. Atlanta’s 20-year-old rookie Heyward made the squad, but might not be able to play because of an injury.
Role player Omar Infante of the Braves might be the most intriguing pick. He is hitting .311 in only 168 at-bats but plays several positions, something that could be useful if there is a tie.
“That made my day. I give Charlie a lot of credit for that,” teammate Chipper Jones said. “You usually don’t see the utility guys get their due. Charlie’s doing his homework.”
The host Los Angeles Angels have one All-Star, center fielder Torii Hunter.
Ken Griffey Jr., who retired in Seattle last month, received more than 1 million votes. The 13-time All-Star drew over 50 million votes during his 22-year career.
The NL Internet candidates: Bell, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, Votto, Atlanta’s Billy Wagner and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman.
The AL Internet candidates: Chicago’s Paul Konerko, New York’s Nick Swisher, Minnesota’s Delmon Young, Texas’ Michael Young and Boston’s Kevin Youkilis.