As luck would happen, the Mariners’ pitching rotation sets up perfectly for Felix Hernandez to start the All-Star Game on Tuesday in St. Louis.
He pitched eight innings Thursday night in his last start before the break. That means that his regular pitching turn would come…Tuesday. He would be fully rested for a possible start, and with his 9-3 record and 2.53 ERA, Hernandez certainly warrants consideration from American League manager Joe Maddon. I’m sure Maddon will receive lobbying on Felix’s behalf from one of his All-Star coaches: Don Wakamatsu.
However, my hunch is that the start will go to Toronto’s Roy Halladay. He, too, pitched last night, going seven innings against Maddon’s Rays but taking the loss in Toronto’s 3-2 defeat. That dropped Halladay to 10-3, 2.85. You could make a strong case that Felix — who has given up one earned run or fewer in 11 of his 18 starts — has had a better first half than Halladay. Yet no one is more respected around baseball than Halladay, who is currently on the trade block. While Felix is rapidly establishing himself as a bona fide ace, Halladay has been there for years. He’s never started an All-Star Game.I can easily see Maddon rewarding him for his career, and his season, by giving him the All-Star start.
There are eight starting pitchers on the All-Star team. Halladay and Hernandez are the only ones for whom the All-Star Game would fall perfectly into their fifth day. You can probably scratch Josh Beckett, Mark Buehrle and Justin Verlander from consideration. All three are scheduled to pitch on Sunday, which would give them just one day’s rest before the All-Star Game. It’s unlikely Maddon would risk their arm by throwing them out there that quickly.
That leaves Zach Greinke, who pitched Wednesday, and thus would be pitching Tuesday with five day’s rest. That’s very doable. I’d rate Greinke as the darkhorse. He was the sensation of baseball for the first two months, and still has outstanding numbers.
Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox also pitched Wednesday. Maddon could elect to reward another veteran, well-respected pitcher who at age 42 is making his first and possibly final All-Star appearance. And it would be a hoot to have all those great National League hitters facing a knuckeballer.
The other AL starter on the roster is Detroit’s Edwin Jackson, who pitches Friday night and thus would have three day’s rest on Tuesday. Jackson is having a breakout season, and he pitched for Maddon last year on the Rays. But I don’t think he has quite enough panache to qualify for an All-Star start.
My money’s on Roy Halladay being on the hill at Busch Stadium to face Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and company.
Oh, the NL starter is going to be Tim Lincecum. Bank on it. Put it this way: If Charlie Manuel doesn’t start Lincecum, last year’s Cy Young winner who is having just as good, if not better, a season in 2009 — and on perfect rest after pitching Thursday — he’s missing the boat.
Here, just for the heck of it, are the starting pitchers for the last 15 All-Star Games.
Yeah, you read right: Esteban Loaiza
(Year, AL starter, NL starter)
2008: Cliff Lee (Indians), Ben Sheets (Brewers)
2007: Dan Haren (A’s), Jake Peavy (Padres)
2006: Kenny Rogers (Tigers), Brad Penny (Dodgers)
2005: Mark Buehrle (White Sox), Chris Carpenter (Cardinals)
2004: Mark Mulder (A’s), Roger Clemens (Astros)
2003: Esteban Loaiza (White Sox), Jason Schmidt (Giants)
2002: Derek Lowe (Red Sox), Curt Schilling (Diamondbacks)
2001: Roger Clemens (Yankees), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks)
2000: David Wells (Blue Jays), Randy Johnson (Diamondbacks)
1999: Pedro Martinez (Red Sox), Curt Schilling (Phillies)
1998: David Wells (Yankees), Greg Maddux (Braves)
1997: Randy Johnson (Mariners), Greg Maddux (Braves)
1996: Charles Nagy (Indians), John Smoltz (Braves)
1995: Randy Johnson (Mariners), Hideo Nomo (Dodgers)
1994: Jimmy Key (Yankees), Greg Maddux (Braves)
(Seattle Times photo by Dean Rutz)