Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers ace Ben Sheets were picked as the starting pitchers for tonight's All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.
Lee, Sheets earn starting nods
Lee is 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA, a remarkable resurgence after the left-hander was demoted to the minors last season. He was chosen by American League manager Terry Francona of Boston.
"I'm just honored to be here, to be honest with you," Lee said Monday. "To get the start is just icing on the cake. ... I'm kind of awe-struck by it."
National League manager Clint Hurdle of Colorado tabbed Sheets, who is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Several other NL All-Stars pitched Sunday, making the well-rested Sheets a logical choice.
"I've never been to Yankee Stadium so I'm going to try to take it all in and just enjoy myself," Sheets said.
Lee, 29, compiled a 0.67 ERA during his first seven starts. He was 18-5 in 2005 but went 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA last year, when he was optioned to the minors for more than a month.
The last Indians pitcher to start an All-Star Game was Charles Nagy in 1996 at Philadelphia -- the last time the National League won.
Don't give squat
It's tradition among players to leave that day's starting pitcher alone before gametime to go through his routine. It's also a superstition to let pitchers sit by themselves on the bench when they're working on a no-hitter. But in the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse there might be a new reason to stay away from at least one hurler.
Tim Lincecum, the hard-throwing right-hander and first-time All-Star, eats in a most unusual manner: he squats.
"I sit in like a squatting position while I'm eating, for some times at least, some meals," Lincecum said at the All-Star press conference Monday. "A couple guys on the team, you know, obviously, get on me about that, just say it's kind of funny, but I guess it's kind of quirky of me. So, it kind works of."
Line 'em up
Colorado Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle said he consulted with several people when putting together his National League batting order.
Oakland general manager Billy Beane probably was not one of them.
"You look at the numbers that many of these men have put up," Hurdle said. "(But) you know, I'm a big fan -- I hear about OPS, OBP -- I'm a big fan of G-U-T-S. I like guts."
So much for Beane's whole Moneyball philosophy, with its importance on on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and other relatively obscure statistics.
Hanley Ramirez will lead off for the NL, followed by Chase Utley, Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols at DH batting cleanup. Chipper Jones, Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun, Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto round out the order.
"As I was writing that thing down, as the flow of the pen came together, that one was the one that stuck, and that's the one that I said, 'You know what? For me, that's our best lineup,' " Hurdle said. "And that's the one we're gonna run out there.
"It's the best lineup that I've ever written down on paper, so we'll see where it takes us."
High-powered agent Scott Boras would like to see the Dominican government help put an end to the practice of middlemen, known as buscones, signing young players in Latin America to contracts with the hope of helping the athletes ink deals with major-league organizations, some for a share of the money.
"The Dominican government just has to really pass a law where contracts with the kids are unenforceable until they're 18. And then the buscone world stops," Boras said.
Currently, international players are able to sign with pro teams at 16. For this year's signing period, big-league teams could sign 16-year-old international players who will turn 17 prior to the end of 2009 minor-league season.
July 2, the Oakland Athletics and prized 16-year-old Dominican pitching prospect Michael Inoa agreed to a minor-league contract with a $4.25 million signing bonus.
-- THE ASSOCIATED PRESS