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Experience rules AL All-Star roster

Experience rules AL All-Star roster

A squadron of young arms raised to new levels. Some one-time stars who have cleared injuries and other hurdles back into prominence. A few novelties. But, mainly, All-Star veterans who have often been there and done that and burn to do it again.

These are the 2007 American League All-Stars who will try to weave fresh midsummer night dreams on July 10 in San Francisco's AT&T Park.

The blend of ballots by fans and peers and of manager Jim Leyland's limited choice yielded an All-Star Team of unprecedented experience for the 78th Classic, one committed to running its league's unbeaten All-Star streak to 11 straight years (including the 2002 tie).

Starting second baseman Placido Polanco and first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, elected by players after losing the popular vote to Boston DH David Ortiz, are the only first-time All-Stars among 20 position players.

While there is considerably more fresh blood on the pitching staff -- six of the 11 pitchers are All-Star rookies -- that is more than offset by the seniority in the starting lineup chosen by fan voting.

Even with Polanco, a 10th-season veteran rewarded by fans for his .333 average, the starters total an amazing 50 past appearances in All-Star Games -- 34 of them as starters.

That includes Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who climaxed two furious ballot weeks by nailing down his first starting spot, although he has been a five-time All-Star reserve.

The All-Star spotlight is a bright interlude in a dark season for the Yankees, whose two infielders dominated the popular vote. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was the overall vote leader, his total of 3,890,515 comfortably beating runner-up teammate Derek Jeter (3,199,571).

With a child-like twinkle in his eyes, A-Rod, who led the vote wall-to-wall, said, "As a kid, I never missed an All-Star Game; it's such a fun game. I really enjoy it ... and it's something that I take tremendous privilege of receiving these votes."

Angels right-fielder Vladimir Guerrero (3,151,387) also topped the 3 million mark which, incidentally, none of the rival National League's candidates reached. So, at the moment, Major League Baseball and its fans are clearly in an AL state of mind.

With no last week ballot surges or surprises, the AL's starting outfield is rounded out by Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez will check into San Francisco as the dean of the All-Stars for his record 12th start, and 14th appearance; Pudge is currently tied at 11 starts with Yogi Berra.

All-Star Game Coverage
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

Polanco, Ordonez and I-Rod give Detroit a trio of All-Star starters for the first time since 1984, when outfielder Chet Lemon, catcher Lance Parrish and second baseman Lou Whitaker were elected.

Along with backup shortstop Carlos Guillen and pitcher Justin Verlander, the Tigers match the Red Sox for league high with five All-Stars. Significantly, none of them had to be added by Leyland, the grateful manager of the defending AL champs.

The selection of five Boston players -- only Ortiz chosen by fans -- is a proper reflection of the team's AL-best first half. The players' vote added starter Josh Beckett, closer Jonathan Papelbon, third baseman Mike Lowell and outfielder Manny Ramirez.

"I'm proud of them and proud of our organization," said their manager, Terry Francona. "We are going to be well represented as we should be. Regardless of the last five or six days, we have one of the best records in baseball."

In their vote, the players came through for Leyland, who had to make only three additions of his own to a pitching staff that boasts seven starters with 63 combined wins and four premier closers with 86 saves among them.

The players elected all the usual suspects: Top winners C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Dan Haren, Beckett and Verlander, and tough closers J.J. Putz, Francisco Rodriguez and Papelbon.

Leyland had to use two of his slots to satisfy the requirement that each team have All-Star representation. He tabbed closer Bobby Jenks and starter Gil Meche as the lone stars of the White Sox and Royals, respectively.

Necessities and his 5-6 record aside, there's little doubt Meche merits the honor, his work as a conspicuous free agent better reflected by his 3.28 ERA.

"It's going to be great to go there and represent the Royals," Meche said. "I'm pretty excited, to be honest. I'm a little antsy to get there and see what it's all about."

Leyland used his last pitching berth on Johan Santana, adding a second left-hander (along with Sabathia) that could prove invaluable on game night.

The managerial prerogative among position players was also limited by the every-team rule. Indeed, Leyland used three spots to account for the Rangers (shortstop Michael Young), Devil Rays (outfielder Carl Crawford) and Blue Jays (outfielder Alex Rios).

Leyland also added a third catcher, Victor Martinez of the Indians.

Leyland has been around long enough to know his limited options would not be popular everywhere.

Mindful of some of his choices being governed by the rules, earlier in the week he had said of his assignment, "I don't think it is going to be that difficult."

"But someone is going to get [left out]," Leyland had added. "The heartbreak to this is someone's still going to get left off. You almost have to be callous about it because you're not going to please everyone."

The list of the victims of that callousness is, as usual, long, led off by Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera (batting .342 for the West Division leaders), Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena (17 homers, 45 RBIs) and even Daisuke Matsuzaka, a nine-game winner who certainly would have been a sensation in San Francisco.

Cabrera's manager knows all about the squeeze felt by All-Star skippers. However, Mike Scioscia, who helmed the AL squad the summer after the Angels' 2002 World Series triumph, couldn't help going to his shortstop's defense.

"This isn't a knock on Michael Young -- he's an All-Star player, an unbelievable talent," Scioscia said. "But Orlando's having a better year, no question about it."

The players' vote had already reserved a spot behind the plate for the Yankees' Jorge Posada, the runner-up in the popular vote.

The manner in which the players supplement the fans' starting choices is pretty straightforward: The highest-ranking players in the vote by their peers not elected by fans make it as reserves.

Consequently, the players also added Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, Guillen, Morneau and Lowell to the infield.

That vote confirmed Lowell's return to prominence following a couple of trying seasons. It is his fourth All-Star selection, but first since 2004, when he was with the NL Marlins.

"It is a tremendous honor and I don't think it is ever not an honor," Lowell said.

The selections of Rios and Roberts culminate their dramatic comebacks from grave injuries. Rios was also chosen last year -- but never made it to Pittsburgh, instead spending the All-Star Game break hospitalized with an alarming staph infection. Roberts has regained his whole game from a ghastly elbow dislocation near the end of the 2005 season.

"I told Brian Roberts that if I were a dad and I was bringing my son to a game, I'd pay to watch him play," Baltimore interim skipper Dave Trembley said. "That's what I think of him as a baseball player and that's what I think of him on this team."

In the outfield, the Twins' Torii Hunter, Cleveland's Grady Sizemore and Ramirez were elected by the players.

The players' vote for Ramirez -- omitted from the fans' starting lineup for the first time in his seven Boston seasons -- reveals the high esteem they have for the dangerous Boston left fielder.

Although Ramirez is thus far having a sub-par season, with only 11 homers to supplement a .286 average, his peers want him in AT&T Park for his 12th All-Star appearance.

Now in its sixth year, the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, and continues until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 5. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2007 All-Star Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. Whether celebrating the Fourth of July or Canada Day, fans will have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Standard rate text messaging fees apply -- please check with your mobile carrier for details. Fans can get the mobile ballot now. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555.

Tom Singer 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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