Seattle ace Felix Hernandez was an easy choice to start the All-Star Game for the American League team, especially after New York Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka was lost last week to an elbow injury.
The choice for National League manager Mike Matheny, though, was no slam dunk. He went with his own pitcher, St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright, over Los Angeles Dodgers lefty and Dallas native Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw didn’t seem to mind, saying that only a month ago he wasn’t even sure he had a chance to make the team. He missed all of April with a back ailment but has gone 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA.
Wainwright, who has been injury-free, has gone 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA.
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Matheny, though, was grilled at one point Monday during the unveiling of the starting lineups. He was asked directly if Wainwright would be the starter if he didn’t pitch for the Cardinals.
“I believe if the manager wasn’t a Dodger, then, yeah,” Matheny said.
Wainwright called the chance to start the All-Star Game an honor just below his two world titles in St. Louis. Kershaw said that he would have loved the opportunity to start, but isn’t going to lose any sleep over Matheny’s decision.
“I haven’t talked to Mike, but I don’t have to talk to him,” Kershaw said. “If I’m him, I’m probably going to pick Adam, too. That’s his guy, and he had the best half. He’s been the best guy in the game for the first half.”
Praise for Jeter
The 85th Midsummer Classic could very well be remembered as a sendoff for Derek Jeter, the Yankees great who will retire at the end of the season.
He will bat first for the AL squad in his 14th appearance and ninth start. All-Stars from both clubs, some of them young enough to remember watching Jeter play while growing up, had nothing but praise for the shoo-in Hall of Famer.
“I was telling my wife yesterday that this will be something I can always remember because ... this will be the first time I ever face him,” Wainwright said. “I’m very excited about it, just to say I faced the best. And he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever play his position. One of the greatest Yankees of all time. And I’m very fortunate, and I feel very proud to be able to say I am going to face Derek Jeter.”
Wainwright’s St. Louis teammate, TCU graduate Matt Carpenter, remembers watching Jeter and knows all about his baseball pedigree. But his professionalism is his No. 1 trait.
“The thing that is most impressive is there’s never anything bad written about him,” Carpenter said. “He embodies what it’s like to be a true professional and do it with class and do it the right way. The way things are, there aren’t a lot of guys like that.”
Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki echoed the same sentiments. Jeter was his idol growing up and the reason Tulowitzki picked No. 2 as his jersey number.
“I’ve looked up to him for a long time,” Tulowitzki said. “To get a chance to start on the opposite end from him is going to be a special moment for me and something I’ll never forget.”
Ready, willing, joking
Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish is a three-time All-Star who is seeking his first game action, but as of Monday afternoon hadn’t been told if he will pitch. Manager John Farrell was non-committal.
“Of course, I would feel very honored if I could pitch, but I haven’t been told,” Darvish said.
Then, the right-hander turned into a bit of jokester, even though he has twice been burned this year when his brand of humor was lost in translation.
Darvish said that if he gets a chance, he will try to throw a pitch 10 mph. He also joked that he won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t pitch.
“I can just relax in the clubhouse,” Darvish deadpanned, before quickly clarifying that he was kidding. “It would be interesting to have a person like me, say, to go to two more All-Star games and not pitch. It would be a record.”