Starting pitchers, lineups set; Judge, Harper batting third
By Mark Feinsand
MIAMI -- As Joe Maddon looked over his roster while he tried to put together the National League All-Star lineup, one of the first things he had to figure out was who would serve as the designated hitter. That turned out to be a very easy decision.
Maddon tabbed Giancarlo Stanton as the DH for the NL, giving the Marlins superstar an opportunity to be in the starting lineup in front of his home crowd at Marlins Park for tonight's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX).
"I thought that was a pretty easy decision," Maddon said. "Looking at the breakdown of the team positionally, I thought to draw a DH out of the outfield was smart -- or possibly a first baseman, having three outstanding first baseman. And furthermore, playing here under the circumstances, I thought it was the right thing to do."
"It was difficult," Maddon said of constructing the NL lineup. "I don't know how well I did or how poorly I did. It was just such great names. If you had this chance to do this exercise on a daily basis, it would be rather fun."
Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna, Miami's other player in the starting lineup, will hit eighth, while Reds shortstop Zack Cozart rounds out the lineup.
"He's got one of the most technically sound swings, I think, in all of Major League Baseball," Maddon said of Ozuna. "[I] really appreciate his approach at the plate. This kid is outstanding. It's really difficult, but he's hitting eighth, which tells you the strength of the lineup."
Maddon added he would have tabbed Nationals righty Max Scherzer as the NL starter ahead of Clayton Kershaw even if the Dodgers' ace had been pitching in the game. The manager also plans to take a different approach to his pitching staff, alternating between starters and relievers each inning in order to give the starting pitchers plenty of time to warm up.
"I have a ton of respect for Mr. Kershaw also," said Maddon. "But if you just broke down the numbers ... I had already chosen Max, based on what I just read numerically. It's hard to argue.
"Kershaw has had a wonderful year. Listen, this guy is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. [Scherzer] is probably going to be, too. But if you want to know my honest opinion, based on the numbers, I thought this was the right way to go."
Across the diamond, as Brad Mills pondered the American League lineup, he knew he wanted to use Jose Altuve as his leadoff hitter, followed by Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez.
The biggest question concerned his biggest hitter -- literally.
"Aaron Judge; where was I going to hit him in the lineup?" Mills said. "It was a situation where you really want him to hit in the first inning, because of the story he's been all year long."
The Yankees' right fielder will indeed hit in the opening frame, having been inserted into the No. 3 spot for the AL. Astros left fielder George Springer -- one of three Houston players in the lineup -- will hit cleanup, followed by his teammate, shortstop Carlos Correa.
"We're going to have three guys out of our first five from Houston," Mills said. "That kind of shows what they've been able to do the first half of the season in the American League."
"Because somebody has to hit ninth," Mills said. "What a talent [Betts] is, from both sides of the ball, all the tools that he has. It's a treat to be able to have that guy in the ninth [spot]."
Mills, the Indians' bench coach, will manage the AL team in place of Cleveland manager Francona, who is recovering from a heart procedure he underwent on Thursday. Mills put the lineup together with some help from Francona on Sunday, though he admitted that there wasn't going to be a wrong answer.
"I've talked about the Houston Astros, and I've talked about Aaron Judge," Mills said. "You really couldn't do wrong with putting anybody anywhere in the lineup that we have. But at the same time, it was more about this being a show; let these guys show what they can do. Up and down the lineup, we can shuffle it, put anybody in there.
"From my point of view, we're here to see these guys and celebrate these players; celebrate this game and what they have done the first half of this season. I think the biggest thing for me is to get everybody in the ballgame and let everyone see them and see the things they've done and see what type of player they are."
For AL starting pitcher and Florida native Chris Sale, the Midsummer Classic will be somewhat of a homecoming.
"This is a fun time. I love coming to the All-Star Game," said Sale. "Being down in Miami -- about an hour and a half, hour and 45 minutes from where I live -- is even better.
"I have my family here, some friends coming and watching. My college coach is coming down, which is special. I'm excited for it. It's a big deal. There's a lot going on, but I like to sit back and soak this in as well."
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 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 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, 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.
Here are the starting lineups:
Jose Altuve, 2B
Jose Ramirez, 3B
Aaron Judge, RF
George Springer, LF
Carlos Correa, SS
Justin Smoak, 1B
Corey Dickerson, DH
Salvador Perez, C
Mookie Betts, CF