0

MLB ALL-STAR NOTEBOOK: After Verlander, Cain named starting pitchers, Posey says catching Mets ace Dickey’s knuckleball would've been 'challenge'; all eyes to be on young guns Harper, Trout

Giants catcher and Leesburg native Buster Posey, right, joked Monday that he may ask Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey to throw him a few of Dickey's specialty pitch before tonight's All-Star Game so Posey can get some experience with the hardest pitch to locate for a catcher in baseball.

Giants catcher and Leesburg native Buster Posey, right, joked Monday that he may ask Mets knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey to throw him a few of Dickey's specialty pitch before tonight's All-Star Game so Posey can get some experience with the hardest pitch to locate for a catcher in baseball.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leesburg’s Buster Posey was thrilled to make his first MLB All-Star game.

But the possibility of catching the knuckleball of Mets ace R.A. Dickey?

Well ... not so much.

Posey, the San Francisco Giants’ starting catcher and National League’s leading vote-getter with a record 7.6 million, told the San Francisco Chronicle, was asked about whether he was nervous as he sweated out the announcement on who would be the NL’s starting pitcher.

And the answer was, unequivocally, yes

“Yeah, a little bit, probably,” Posey said shortly after finding out his Giants teammate, ace Matt Cain, would start tonight. “It’s hard to speak on it because I haven’t caught one. I know he throws his a little bit harder. I don’t know if that makes it more difficult or less difficult. I don’t have anything to base it on.

“I’m sure it would’ve been a challenge, for sure. You like to say you can (adapt).”

Posey then added with a laugh: “Maybe I’ll get him to throw me some just for the heck of it, even if I don’t get to catch him.”

By the time Dickey gets to the field, Posey’s night should be done and the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz is expected to be behind the plate.


Tigers’ Verlander starter for AL; Giants’ Cain to start on for NL — leaving MLB wins leader Dickey of Mets miffed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Owner of the best record in baseball, R.A. Dickey was hoping to become the first knuckleballer to start an All-Star game since Dutch Leonard in 1943.

A 12-1 record wasn’t good enough. Tony La Russa picked San Francisco’s Matt Cain to start for the National League to night.

“I’m not going to break down in tears over it, but at the same time I’m a competitor. I want to pitch. I want to start,” Dickey said Monday. “I feel like I had a good enough first half that I should be considered. But I’m not the boss. I don’t necessarily have to agree with him, but I have to respect it. That’s just the way it is.”

Detroit’s Justin Verlander will start for the American League as the All-Stars return to Kansas City for the first time since 1973.

La Russa, who retired after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to last year’s World Series title, made the decision after consulting with his longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan. Cain had the advantage of pitching a perfect game against Houston on June 13.

“We wanted to reward Matt Cain for a career of excellence that’s getting better and better,” La Russa said. “And he had a great example of that during the summer on one of his pitching days.”

Cain also will be pitching to his regular catcher, Leesburg native Buster Posey. La Russa said Dickey likely will enter the game sometime in the first five innings, around the time Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz replaces Posey behind the plate.

Dickey hopes he wasn’t denied the start just because he throws knuckleballs.

“You’re talking about the best players in the world, and you’re asking about a pitch that’s too nasty to handle?” Dickey said. “I hope that’s not it. If that’s the reason, that’s a poor reason.”

Cain is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA. Dickey, a first-time All-Star at age 37, became the first major leaguer in 24 years to throw consecutive one-hitters.

“We have guys the last couple of years, whether it’s spring training or even during the season, I don’t play against Dickey,” La Russa said. “He can spook you.”

Verlander, 9-5 with a 2.58 ERA, is the first All-Star starter who has won Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP.

“Obviously right now, I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “Actually sitting here just looking over the lineup thinking about how I’m going to pitch these guys.”

The AL’s batting order has Derek Jeter leading off and playing shortstop, followed by Yankees teammate Robinson Cano at second base, Texas left fielder Josh Hamilton, Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista, Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder, Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, Texas catcher Mike Napoli and Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson.

The NL has Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez leading off as the DH, followed by San Francisco center fielder Melky Cabrera, Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran, Posey, Giants third baseman Pedro Sandoval, Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla and St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal.

Braun, who finished fourth in NL outfielder voting, takes the place of the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring.

For La Russa, the game marks a full circle. He made his major league debut as a player with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963, when they played downtown at Municipal Stadium.

“To think the last time I’m going to put on a uniform is going to be in Kansas City is just an unbelievable coincidence to believe,” he said.


Harper and Trout go from farmhands to fame:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bryce Harper remembered back to Oct. 27, when just 414 fans were at Scottsdale Stadium to watch his Scorpions play the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

Down 7-5, Bryce Harper vowed to teammate Brandon Crawford to hit a game-winning home run.

“I’ll drop a bomb and walk off the field, tell them we own this place,” Harper said. “I promise you I’m going to hit a jack right here. I swear on everything.”

“Yeah, OK,” Mike Trout told him in disbelief.

Trout led off with a single, Scottsdale got another hit with one out and Harper followed with a home run to right-center off Jeff Inman.

“Everybody ran inside the clubhouse,” Harper said. “It was a great moment.”

Still tied together, baseball’s youthful dynamic duo will be watched by millions on Tuesday night as the All-Star game returns to Kansas City and beautiful Kauffman Stadium for the first time since 1973.

Just 19, Harper is the youngest position player in All-Star history and a key part of the Washington Nationals’ emergence as a first-place team. Trout, a year older, is leading the American League in hitting and helping the Los Angeles Angels turn around their season after a sloppy start.

Coincidentally, both came up to the majors leagues on April 28, Harper for his debut and Trout for his return following a pair of stints last year. They are among a record five rookie All-Stars, joined by Texas pitcher Yu Darvish, Oakland closer Ryan Cook and Arizona pitcher Wade Miley.

In a room full of baseball’s best, even the veterans are taking notice of Harper and Trout.

“Speed. Power. Excitement. Youth. Energy,” Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson said. “If they are able to stay healthy, they can completely transform the game as they get, five, 10, 15 years of big league time.”

For now, both will start Tuesday night’s game on the bench.

With the result determining home-field advantage in the World Series for the 10th straight year, the AL manager Ron Washington will start reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. The NL’s Tony La Russa, the first inactive All-Star manager since the AL’s Bob Lemon in 1979, chose San Francisco’s Matt Cain — coming off a perfect game last month — over knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets.

Trout was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Cleveland when he saw on Twitter that Harper was being called up the same day. Trout hadn’t let many people know he was joining the big league team.

“Knowing he was getting called up that same day was pretty funny,” Trout said.

A son of former Minnesota minor league infielder Jeff Trout, Mike was taken by the Angels with the 25th pick on the first round of the 2009 amateur draft. Idolizing Derek Jeter, he played shortstop at Millville Senior High in New Jersey until he was moved to the outfield in his senior year. He understands why he lasted so late in the first round.

“A lot of risk. East Coast kid. Didn’t play all year,” he said. “You look at the teams in Florida and California, they’ve got perfect weather all year. They can play all year.”

Harper had the greater renown, on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was just 16 with the headline “CHOSEN ONE.” With sunglasses hanging from the top of his shirt and a neatly cropped beard, he has the big league look. A hint of acne reveals he’s still a teenager.

“So much pressure — no, I’m just kidding,” he said, joshing with the media.

Joining a Nationals team that already has a top youthful star in ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg, Harper has a .282 batting average with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 63 games. The only younger All-Stars were Bob Feller in 1938 and Dwight Gooden in 1984, both closer to their 19th birthdays than Harper.

“I still feel like I have that kid inside me that wants to play the game of baseball every single day,” Harper said. “I got love and that passion for the game and, hopefully, I can keep it going. I hope I’ll be able to play for the Nationals for a long time and be able to play in the big leagues for a long time because that’s the dream.”

While Harper is polished following years of interviews, Trout projects a golly-gee demeanor, with close-cropped hair and a beaming smile. After he twice crashed into the center-field fence at Denver’s Coors Field last month, teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren suggested he turn down the enthusiasm by a few notches.

“It’s a long year. We’re going to need you,” Trout remembered them telling him.

He’s hitting .341 with 12 homers, 40 RBIs and 26 steals in 29 chances.

“I was just telling Jete, I’ve never seen a player hit a triple to left field, down the line,” Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. “Raul (Ibanez) plays it off the wall, and he’s standing on third. That’s just fun to see. What he’s doing is amazing.”

While Trout was an All-Star shoo-in, La Russa appeared reluctant to select Harper and added him on Saturday as a replacement when Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton got hurt.

Even the 67-year-old La Russa, who managed his first World Series champions before they were born, appreciates the focus on the new stars.

“It would be nice to put the National League phenom against the American League phenom,” he said.

When discussing Trout, Harper sounds like a fan.

“He’s fun to watch. I get pumped to watch him,” Harper said.

They hope this is just the first of many All-Star appearances. For every Willie Mays, who played his 24th and final All-Star game in Kansas City, there is a Gooden, who was selected in four of his first five seasons and then flamed out because of injuries and drug use.

Harper and Trout know what they can become. They are the next generation, playing alongside the present.

“I think certain guys who have been introduced to the game of baseball early on in life,” said 40-year-old Chipper Jones, who is retiring at the end of the season. “Travel ball has accelerated so much for the development of young players these days. Back when I played, we played 30 games a year, and I’d move on to football and basketball, and run a little track.”

Yes, much has changed. But much is the same.

Harper wants to become just like Jones, a perennial All-Star respected by his peers.

“Any time I can do that and be that guy that’s the face of baseball, I think that would be great, to be able to do that, to be able to play the game for a long time and respect everybody around me and respect the league,” he said. “That would be a lot of fun.”