Projecting the 2011 AL All-Star team

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Same deal as yesterday: 21 position players, 13 pitchers. Let’s give it a go.

Catcher
Locks: Russell Martin
Possibilities: Alex Avila, Matt Wieters, J.P. Arencibia, Miguel Olivo, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer

Martin has more than a 600,000-ballot lead on Avila in second place, so he’s sure to go. It will be interesting to see what happens from there. Avila has been the league’s best offensive catcher to date and he’s second in the balloting, so he’d seem to be the obvious choice. However, if he falls off over the next few weeks, perhaps it’d be possible to sneak Victor Martinez, who is listed as a DH, into the backup slot instead.

First base
Locks: Adrian Gonzalez
Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Konerko, Adam Lind, Justin Smoak

Given that the DH spot is set to be occupied by David Ortiz, there’s really only room for three first basemen, meaning someone very deserving is going to be left out. Gonzalez is probably a lock now after having overtaken Teixeira in the balloting. Even if Teixeira comes back and wins that, it’s hard to imagine Gonzalez being left off. And Teixeira isn’t far off from being a lock himself.

If it comes down to Cabrera and Konerko for that third spot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Konerko is the pick. It could come down to which of the two manager Ron Washington would prefer to honor.

Second base
Locks: Robinson Cano
Possibilities: Howie Kendrick, Ben Zobrist, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler

Cano’s spot is assured, as well it should be. His backup is still to be determined. Kendrick leads AL second basemen in OPS, but he’s missed some time and he’s driven in just 23 runs. Zobrist has 36 RBI and a fine .816 OPS. They’re the best candidates right now, but Pedroia could always get hot and Washington would likely take Kinsler if given the chance.

Third base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Maicer Izturis

A-Rod will probably win the vote and lock up a bid; he’s currently 310,000 votes ahead of Beltre in first place. The backup spot should go to Youkilis or Beltre. Youkilis has nearly 100 points of OPS on the Texas third baseman, but Beltre does make up some of that with his glove.

Shortstop
Locks:
Possibilities: Derek Jeter, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Elvis Andrus, Alexei Ramirez, Yunel Escobar, Erick Aybar, J.J. Hardy

I almost listed Cabrera as a lock, since he seems nearly certain to be taken as a reserve if he fails to overtake Jeter in the balloting. However, there’s enough quality competition here that there are no guarantees. Peralta’s .844 OPS almost matches Cabrera’s .850 mark, and Escobar isn’t too far behind at .818. Plus, there’s another possible Ranger pick in Andrus.

Outfield
Locks: Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson
Possibilities: Josh Hamilton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Joyce, Carlos Quentin, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Josh Willingham, Ichiro Suzuki

It’s not the strongest crop beyond the top two.  Hamilton will probably lock up the third starter’s spot now that he’s back healthy.  Joyce, Quentin and Ellsbury are all very deserving of reserve spots, but one of them might get bumped because of the need to represent every team.

I can’t really imagine Ichiro being picked now that he’s not going to be voted in as a starter, but if he’s on the Final Vote ballot, then he’ll have a chance.

Designated hitter
Locks: David Ortiz
Possibilites: Michael Young, Victor Martinez

I think it’s a given that Washington will pick Young is he has the chance.  And that’s fine.  Young is a backup option at both second and third, and the AL team is probably going to have just two players each at those positions.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Jered Weaver
Possibilities: Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, James Shields, Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Ricky Romero, David Price, Jon Lester, Scott Baker, Gio Gonzalez, Zach Britton

There are a handful of other possibilities too, but I had to draw the line somewhere.  Weaver and Beckett would seem to be the top candidates to start for the AL squad.  Both Ogando and Wilson have pretty good cases on their own merits, and Washington figures to choose at least one for the staff.

Relievers
Locks: Mariano Rivera
Possibilites: Jose Valverde, Chris Perez, Jonathan Papelbon, Neftali Feliz, Sergio Santos, Brandon League, Jordan Walden, Kyle Farnsworth, Daniel Bard, Scott Downs, Aaron Crow, Darren Oliver

There haven’t been a lot of great AL relievers this year, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Washington compensate by taking nine or 10 starters for his 13 pitchers.  That’s not usually the way it works, though.

OK, time for the projection…

AL All-Star team

Lineup
CF Curtis Granderson
SS Derek Jeter
1B Adrian Gonzalez
RF Jose Bautista
LF Josh Hamilton
DH David Ortiz
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
C Russell Martin

Bench
C Alex Avila
1B Mark Teixeira
1B Paul Konerko
2B Ben Zobrist
3B Kevin Youkilis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
SS Jhonny Peralta
OF Matt Joyce
OF Carlos Quentin
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Adam Jones
DH Michael Young

Pitchers
Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
C.J. Wilson
CC Sabathia
Scott Baker
Gio Gonzalez

Mariano Rivera
Chris Perez
Jonathan Papelbon
Jose Valverde
Aaron Crow

Though the NL has two more teams, it was a lot more difficult trying to figure out reps for each club on the AL side. The Twins, A’s, Orioles and Royals all have only borderline choices. I went with Baker, Gonzalez, Jones and Crow for the spots, but they were all tossups. I could have easily gone with Gordon or Willingham in Jones’ slot.

With Baker and Gonzalez on the team, Felix Hernandez was the final cut. He’ll probably be working the Sunday before the All-Star game anyway.

(Whoops, can’t do that. Leaves me without a Mariner. Hernandez is back on, and I cut James Shields. Anyway, the rotation will be pretty much a mystery until the last week before the game. Pineda could very easily be on there instead of Felix.)

And, yeah, I have Jeter batting second in the starting lineup. It’s not how I’d arrange it, but at least it does help break up the lefties.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.