All-Star Game young, never old, for Cubs

All-Star Game young, never old, for Cubs

SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs had a monopoly on the right side of the Manchester Grand Hyatt ballroom on Monday, where the National League All-Stars gathered for their first collective appearance. They sent a Major League-most seven players to San Diego, where, tonight, the Cubs are poised to become the second team in MLB history to field a full starting All-Star infield.

Chicago's All-Star contingent includes three first-time All-Stars -- Addison Russell, Dexter Fowler, and somewhat surprisingly, Jake Arrieta. The Cubs' ace netted a National League Cy Young Award before he received his first All-Star invite. But after being passed over by Giants manager Bruce Bochy last summer, Arrieta earned an invite through the player's ballot this summer.

"It's been a journey, it really has," Arrieta said of the road to San Diego. "It's special. It's kind of like the Cy Young moment in the offseason where it kind of feels I finally got to where I knew I was going. It doesn't mean my job is done or the work is over, it just means that things have started to pay off and I can step back and enjoy it."

Arrieta, though not chosen to start the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard tonight at 6:30 CT, is likely to be one of the first pitchers in for manager Terry Collins' NL squad. Since last year's Midsummer Classic, Arrieta is 24-5 with a 1.75 ERA.

An All-Star invite also brought some validity to Fowler, who didn't get the sort of offseason interest he expected after declining the Cubs' qualifying offer last November. That led to an eventual reunion with the Cubs, whose strong season start had much to do with the spark Fowler provided from the top of the order.

He's been out with a strained right hamstring since mid-June, and he chose not to rush back just to start an All-Star Game.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm content," Fowler said. "At the end of the day, it's about the longevity of my season and my career. Actually, not playing is motivation for me to come back."

The team's other four elected starters -- Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Russell and Kris Bryant -- will participate. Zobrist, making his third All-Star appearance, will lead off the game against South Sider Chris Sale. Collins plugged Bryant into the three-hole, Rizzo into the sixth spot and rounded out his lineup with Russell.

Collins announces NL lineup

This will mark the 30th time this season that those four will be filling out an entire infield together.

"It's pretty spectacular," Russell said. "I see these guys every single day, but to have them here in the All-Star Game is awesome. Just looking around the infield, it's going to feel pretty comfortable."

Zobrist, 35, is the eldest of the bunch, and he has embraced the opportunity to help mold all the young talent around him. Here in San Diego, he matches Rizzo as a three-time All-Star.

"The younger guys, they're already well on their way to being great professionals," Zobrist said. "If I can help them learn this responsibility at this age, then by the time they're my age, they're going to be taking full command of the field. It's just a matter of them growing and getting experience."

Cubs All-Stars on MLB Tonight

For Rizzo, the first Cubs first baseman to start an All-Star Game since Derrek Lee (2005), the Midsummer Classic will remind fans in San Diego what might have been. He debuted with the Padres in 2011 and hit .141/.281/.242 in 49 games his rookie season. The Padres traded him to the Cubs that following winter.

"I just wasn't good," Rizzo said of his first impression. "My first taste of the big leagues, I was up and down. It worked out really well, though, because now I couldn't be happier with where I'm at."

Like Zobrist, this will be Jon Lester's first All-Star experience on the NL side. If he and Arrieta pitch tonight, it will be the first time since 2008 that the Cubs will have had multiple pitchers appear in the same All-Star Game.

Traveling with such a large contingent, Lester said, is the highlight of his fourth All-Star Game.

"It's just fun to see," Lester said. "You look around and there are lot of guys you have never met before, but you have six other guys who you can hover around during BP. It makes things easier."

Watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

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