AL to display some new blood in Detroit
Six first-time starters, seven first-time All-Stars on roster
The American League is entrusting new blood with protecting the old order -- and the league's fans and players could not have agreed more on how to go about it.For the first time ever, the starting lineup chosen by voting fans perfectly mirrors the choices of the players, whose own vote thus shaped the rest of the AL squad. The AL will seek to run its undefeated streak to nine Midsummer Classics with an All-Star squad, announced Sunday night, that includes seven All-Star rookies, two of them in the starting lineup alongside four other first-time starters. The four AL All-Stars who return to the Midsummer Classic but in a starting role for the first time include Boston outfielder Johnny Damon, who overtook perennial starter Ichiro Suzuki with a furious charge. Damon's final tally of 2,800,610 votes gave him a 57,000-vote decision over Seattle's Ichiro for the final berth in the starting outfield -- the tightest among all the positional battles. "It's definitely an honor for myself. I know for the other guys, too," said Damon, who will be joined in the lineup by three Boston teammates. "I think we're going to represent the Red Sox and the American League very proudly." Ichiro subsequently was added to the squad through results of the players' own vote. That process, in which runners-up automatically join the bench when the leaders match the fans' choices, added nine reserves and eight pitchers. All-Star manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox finalized the 31-man roster by adding four more pitchers and one player. David Ortiz, who led voting for both teams with a total of 4,138,141 tallies to earn the nod at DH, Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada and Boston catcher Jason Varitek will be the other return All-Stars but first-time starters in the 76th All-Star Game, to be played on July 12 at Detroit's Comerica Park. "I think it's great because I remember last year there was nothing but Yankees in the lineup," said Ortiz. Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira and Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, both starters for the AL team, will be making their debut All-Star Game appearance.
While Varitek and Roberts led wire to wire in international balloting by fans, Teixeira overcame Tino Martinez of the Yankees in the next-to-last week of voting and won the position going away, by more than 660,000 votes.The old guard is represented by the outfield, where 2004 starters Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero join Damon in the starting lineup. "It's quite a privilege to continue on with something that started in the National League," said Guerrero, a sixth-time All-Star, the first four with the former Montreal Expos. The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, making his second straight start at third base following five All-Star starts at shortstop, is the only other incumbent starter.
|Alex Rodriguez / 3B|
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"It's very special to represent the Yankees," said Rodriguez, whose two hot-corner starts have been as a Bronx Bomber, following earlier All-Star appearances with both the Mariners and Rangers. "Especially to be voted in my the fans ... it's overwhelming. It makes you feel pretty good."The All-Star Game, to be held on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet. The AL has not dropped an All-Star Game since being blanked, 6-0, in the 1996 edition at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. Its unbeaten streak includes the 7-7 tie in 11 innings in 2002 in Milwaukee's Miller Park. With Francona's choices and the players' vote supplementing fans' picks for the starting lineup, the 2005 AL All-Stars reflect dramatic turnover from one year to the next. All told, 18 players on the 31-man roster were not members of the 2004 squad that hammered the NL, 9-4, in Houston's Minute Maid Park for the AL's most lopsided victory in the series since 1993. Besides the duo of starters, the other Midsummer Classic rookies are all on the 12-man pitching staff: Tampa Bay's Danys Baez, Oakland's Justin Duchscherer, 13-game winner Jon Garland of the White Sox, Baltimore's B.J. Ryan and reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana of the Twins.
|Johan Santana / P|
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
Santana, who took a 7-6 record into All-Star break '04, then ripped off 13 straight wins, this time had his 7-4 record rewarded. "It's an honor to have the opportunity ... It's going to be fun, and something to remember, " the left-hander said.Even among the 24 repeat All-Stars, several will return to the scene after extensive layoffs. Bartolo Colon of the Angels made his only earlier All-Star appearance in 1998, as a member of the Indians. Similarly, Bob Wickman's only prior All-Star honor came in 2000. "I'm very happy. I want to thank my teammates for all the support they've given me in helping me get to the All-Star Game," said Colon, who freely admitted using the All-Star carrot as motivational fodder. "I had it in the back of my mind, almost as a way of pushing myself." Shea Hillenbrand, Paul Konerko, Damon and Mark Buehrle are all back in the All-Star fold after a two-year absence, their last appearances coming in 2002. "It doesn't get old," said Angels outfielder Garret Anderson, also a 2002-03 All-Star and the game's MVP in '03. "I still feel the way I felt the first time. I'm happy to go and I look forward to it." By contrast, Twins closer Joe Nathan is one of a dozen All-Stars revelling in back-to-back recognition. "I'm thrilled to go," said Nathan. "I think it's even more rewarding to be able to come back." The players' vote also brought back two of the generation's most decorated All-Stars, closer Mariano Rivera and right fielder Gary Sheffield of the Yankees. "It's an honor to be in the All-Star Game, no matter how many times you've been there," said Rivera, who'll be making an unofficial record seventh appearance for the quick-burnout fraternity of closers.
|Gary Sheffield / RF|
Weight: 205 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Sheffield, on his ninth All-Star Team, drew particular pride from being selected by fellow players: "That's what keeps me going. As long as my peers respect what I do, like the way I play the game and go about my business, it's always good."Francona's hands were clearly tied by the requirement that each of the 14 teams be represented in the All-Star Game. Once the players' choices were executed, with their runners-up added to the roster, Francona had to fill in. Four of Francona's choices are their teams' lone All-Star, the exception being Colon, who joins teammates Guerrero and Anderson. Francona's other picks include Baez, Duchscherer, Wickman and Kansas City first baseman Mike Sweeney. Others who will have the honor of being alone in wearing their teams' colors in Comerica Park are hometown favorite Ivan Rodriguez -- the catcher's league-leading 12th appearance -- and Ichiro. Besides A-Rod, the ironman starter in the cast is Ramirez, who will be making his sixth All-Star start. Once again, the East dominates the All-Star landscape, with 14 representatives, including at seven of the nine starting positions. West teams have nine representatives, including the two other starters, Teixeira at first and Guerrero in the outfield. Blanked in the starting lineup, Central teams placed eight men on the squad, including three by the Chicago White Sox, who own MLB's best record. The Rangers, Orioles and Red Sox pace all AL teams with four All-Stars each.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.