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NL analysis: Manuel tabs his guy, versatility

NL analysis: Manuel tabs his guy, versatility

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he had two especially difficult decisions selecting 10 reserves for the National League All-Star team:

1. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard vs. Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

2. Padres closer Heath Bell.

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Manuel picked Howard over Votto, who is having arguably the best season of any player in the league this year. Votto leads the NL in OPS (.988). He is second in home runs (19), on-base percentage (.414) and slugging percentage (.574) and fifth in RBIs (57). Howard is fourth in the league in RBIs (58), 10th in home runs (15), 14th in slugging percentage (.506) and 20th in OPS (.859).

"He's my guy," Manuel said of Howard. "He's my player. My guy. Probably the toughest decision was Howard and Votto. Both of them are having big years. Both of them are standing right there. Like I said, Howard's my guy. Their numbers are close -- very close. I have to go with my guy."

Manuel, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, placed Votto, Bell, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Braves closer Billy Wagner and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the Final Vote at MLB.com.

"I was disappointed," Votto said. "I would've liked to have gotten in on the first vote, but I still consider this an honor to give myself a chance to go to the All-Star Game with a pretty good group of guys."

Manuel explained the decision not to pick Bell, who is 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA and a league-leading 23 saves.

"Heath Bell is having a tremendous year," Manuel said. "He's on the final ballot. So is Votto. Bell has 23 saves. I know everything he's got. We were definitely looking at him. He definitely is having a tremendous year. How the pitching lined up ... we feel like we need two or three guys with length in case we tie the game up. I think they emphasized that in 2002 when the game got called a tie. They don't want a tie game."

"You can open up the stat pack and make your case [for Bell]," Padres manager Bud Black said. "This is a performance game, and he's performed."

It sounded like Manuel did not seriously consider picking Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg, who is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA in just six starts. He has struck out 53 in 36 2/3 innings.

"I'm not his manager, but he's a young kid and I say let him pitch, let him get his feet on the ground in the Major Leagues," Manuel said. "Let him earn his way. I think it's better that he stays and pitches [with the Nationals]. In the long run, I think that he'll learn more from that. You're not taking a chance of putting him out there too quickly."

Manuel selected Braves infielder Omar Infante, which raised some eyebrows. Manuel explained that because of a new rule allowing for one re-entry player, he wanted somebody who could play multiple positions.

Infante, who is hitting .311, has played second base, third base, shortstop and the corner-outfield positions this season.

"He's versatile," Manuel said.

Besides Howard and Infante, Manuel selected Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, Braves right-hander Tim Hudson, Pirates right-hander Evan Meek, Reds left-hander Arthur Rhodes, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Astros center fielder Michael Bourn and D-backs center fielder Chris Young.

Phillips replaced Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who is injured. Rhodes, 40, is the third-oldest All-Star rookie in baseball history. He is 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 37 appearances.

"His numbers speak for itself," Manuel said about Rhodes. "He's got tremendous stuff. Being a left-hander definitely helped him, but he earned a shot to pitch to a hitter or an inning."

Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey, Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia, Padres left-hander Clayton Richard, Padres right-hander Mat Latos are a few of the starting pitchers who did not make the team despite having good seasons.

"I think that some of those guys are Sunday pitchers," Manuel said. "I think I was told that."

Braves rookie Jason Heyward earned a starting spot in the outfield, although he is on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left thumb. There remains a chance he could play. Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Bobby Cox said if Heyward proves he is healthy before the game, they are comfortable with him playing.

"If everything feels good, they'll leave the cast off and start physical therapy the next three days," Wren said. "Then he would join us in New York and if everything goes well there, he'll go to Anaheim as an official All-Star. If it doesn't and he needs a little more time or he has a little bit of pain and needs a few more days, which might just be the three days of the All-Star break, then he'll go to show his appreciation for getting in, but he won't participate."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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