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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 14, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Why Chone Figgins and not Russ Branyan was added to the All-Star Team

With Evan Longoria getting scratched from the American League team at the last minute because of an infected finger, AL manager Joe Maddon had a chance to name Russ Branyan to the team. Branyan is among the league leaders in home runs and OPS.

But Mariners’ manager Don Wakamatsu, one of Maddon’s coaches, understands the decision to go with the versatile Figgins.

“I think the trouble is, you need a utility spot for somebody,” Wakamatsu said. “Obviously, Figgins is deserving of it. You have that many first basemen in a National League park, it’s awfuly difficult to carry another one.”

First basemen Mark Teixeira (the starter), Justin Morneau, Carlos Pena and Kevin Youkilis are already on the AL roster.

Maybe Maddon could have used the All-Star Game as a showcase for Branyan to see how he can handle third base. Then, if he did well, Wakamatsu can move him to third and call up Mike Carp to platoon at first with Chris Shelton Well, it’s a thought.

Here’s what Maddon said about adding Figgins: “I like his versatility, the fact that he’s played third base and can also play second base, all the outfield positions, and he can run and hits from both sides of the plate.

“When you are making decisions to augment your bench, I think you really are trying to get the kind of fit that helps you out in so many different ways at the end of the game. We brought his name up and everybody was on board.”

Figgins was supposed to arrive in St. Louis at about 5:20 — 10 minutes ago — and get a special escort to Busch Stadium. That’s complicated by the tight security surrounding President Obama’s appearance here tonight.

“He was going to see if he could beat the president (to the ballpark),” Maddon said.

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