Baseball / Sports

All-Star managers sift through possible starting pitchers

SAN DIEGO -- While Major League Baseball issues weekly updates on All-Star voting by fans, the two biggest starting spots won't be determined by ballpark ballots or online clicks.

Instead, managers John Farrell and Mike Matheny will determine the starting pitchers for each team.

Yes, the game isn't for another three weeks. But it's never too early to speculate on such things.

There is a mitigating factor in their selections, which is whether a pitcher started on the Sunday before the game -- making them ineligible to pitch in the game.

At this point, Farrell's decision seems to come down to three candidates--Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees, Mark Buehrle of the Blue Jays and Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

Tanaka seems like the easy choice. He's got an 11-1 record and a sparkling 1.99 earned-run average as a rookie. He's posted quality starts in all 14 starts this season, and he's struck out 113 batters (second in the AL) in 99 1/3 innings pitched. He's been dominant.

But would a Red Sox manager really pick a Yankee to start the All-Star Game?

Farrell might get bailed out of the dilemma. Looking ahead, there is a strong possibility that Tanaka will start Sunday before the All-Star Game, making him ineligible.

Deciding between the remaining two might be as easy. Hernandez has an 8-2 record. And while win-loss record has little meaning to some, managers still look at it. Hernandez has been brilliant, posting a 2.22 ERA and striking out 122 batters -- most in the American League. He's also leading the AL in innings pitched at 113 1/3. Four times this season he's pitched seven innings or more and allowed one run or less and didn't get a win. Once he even took the loss.

If the Mariners don't skip a starter because of two off days, Hernandez should be in the clear for starting.

Buehrle has a 10-4 record with a 2.32 ERA. He's pitched twice against Farrell's team, beating the Red Sox in Fenway in May. He's a veteran pitcher and well respected in the game. But his numbers aren't as dominant as Hernandez's or Tanaka's. Other outside candidates might be Yu Darvish of Texas or Scott Kazmir of the A's.

The decision on the National League side isn't quite as convoluted for Matheny. The best pitcher in the league is on his own team. Adam Wainwright is 9-3 with a 2.15 ERA. He's thrown two shutouts and has 91 strikeouts in 1001/3 innings pitched with just 21 walks. As long as Wainwright doesn't pitch on that Sunday before -- and Matheny can control that -- it seems likely he will be the starter.

Other candidates include Zack Greinke of the Dodgers, who is 9-3 with a 2.57 ERA in 15 starts, and lefty Madison Bumgarner, who is 8-4 with a 2.85 ERA for the Giants.

But if Wainwright can start, you have to figure he will get the nod from his manager.

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