DETROIT -- Twenty-four hours after leaping out of the phone booth, Bobby Abreu removed the cape and resumed being Clark Kent. Well, not totally. But after having suped up for 24 homers in leading off the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby, Abreu led off Tuesday night's All-Star Game with a little opposite-field single. That was the real Abreu's real game: going with the pitch, in this case an offering on the outer half of the plate from left-hander Mark Buehrle.
Or, as Jimmy Rollins noted after the National League had dropped another Midsummer Classic, 7-5, to the American League, "That's the game-time Bobby. You make a mistake, Bobby will hurt you." Merely leading off had to be a weird experience for Abreu, a staple at No. 3 in Charlie Manuel's Philadelphia lineups. "There's something exciting about it," Abreu said of the chance to lead off. "It's different, but something I enjoyed." Abreu, the NL starter in right field, had two more at-bats before being replaced by Rollins in the bottom of the fifth. Rollins took Abreu's place in the leadoff spot, with Jim Edmonds shifting from center into Abreu's right-field post. Rollins went on to get an infield single in his only at-bat, capping a productive Philly night in defeat. The third Philadelphia All-Star, Billy Wagner, didn't get to leave the bullpen. This was the first time in four All-Star appearances that the left-handed closer did not get into the game. "You've got to save people. We couldn't afford to really waste a lot of pitchers," Wagner said. "In the end, we did make it close and, all of a sudden, you're left with two closers. You don't want to overextend them." Wagner and St. Louis closer Jason Isringhausen were kept in reserve by manager Tony La Russa, strategy that certainly looked sound as the NL worked on an early 7-0 deficit before succumbing. So Wagner settled for vicarious pleasure in watching Abreu and Rollins combine to go 2-for-3. "There is pride," Wagner nodded. "You definitely want them to do well, and when they get an opportunity, it's good for us as an organization." Against the Angels' Bartolo Colon, Abreu grounded out to second in the third inning. Then he drew a two-out walk on a full-count pitch from Matt Clement in the fifth. Rollins got more props for the Phillies, beating out a roller to third base for an infield single with none out in the seventh.
"So I'm 0-2-1," the shortstop said. "I haven't lost all three, I can always say that."Asked for the highlight of his latest All-Star experience, Rollins didn't hesitate: "Watching Bobby Abreu in the Home Run Derby. ... That was the most amazing thing I've seen." "We don't see that in Philly all time time," Rollins added, "'cause he's going to work. To see him cut loose like that ... 517 feet ... Phew ..." Rollins knows a lot of people may have gotten wrong impressions of his teammate Monday night while watching him send 41 balls out of Comerica Park. "He doesn't normally hit like that. He got locked in and didn't look back," Rollins said. "That was his Home Run Derby swing. Not his game swing. But the people hadn't come to see Bobby hit line drives to left field." That's what they got at game time, after Buehrle tried to sneak a two-strike fastball across the outside corner. "Fastball, away, and Bobby was Bobby," Rollins said. "He took that base hit to left." Although it did not lead to bigger and better things for their league, it was a beautiful hit for the Phillies. A common refrain in the aftermath of Abreu's 41-homer evening, although voiced in jest, was that the display would go to his head and ruin his swing. Didn't take Abreu long to silence those concerns.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.