Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers flush with All-Stars

Based on that final balloting update, it appears the American

League starting lineup for the All-Star game will be loaded with

Yankees and Red Sox.

Here we go again.

Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez. All

probably headed to Phoenix, with several other teammates in

tow.

That might rankle fans around the country, but take a look at

the numbers. With the exception of New York catcher Russell Martin

and aging shortstop Derek Jeter, most of the leading vote-getters

do indeed deserve those spots.

Who else has earned a trip to the July 12 showcase? Tough

choices, as usual.

Prince Fielder or Joey Votto at first base for the National

League? Carlos Quentin or Jacoby Ellsbury in the AL outfield? And

how many aces can the Phillies put on the pitching staff?

”It can be a little daunting, to be honest,” NL manager Bruce

Bochy of the San Francisco Giants said. ”Sure, it’s an honor and

you’re excited about it, but at the same time you know that

somebody’s going to get snubbed, supposedly. There’s nothing you

can do about it. It’s not perfect.”

One superstar who won’t be playing is St. Louis slugger Albert

Pujols, sidelined by a broken wrist. He highlights a striking list

of face-of-the-franchise types who figure to miss this All-Star

game because of injuries, slumps – or both.

Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Chase

Utley, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman, Carl Crawford, Buster Posey,

Justin Morneau, Josh Johnson, Johan Santana.

In their absence, look for talented first-timers such as

Asdrubal Cabrera, Rickie Weeks and Matt Kemp.

Following last year’s rule changes, this will be the first time

the designated hitter is used in an NL park. There are 34 slots on

each roster, with 13 going to pitchers. And every team must be

represented, which makes for difficult decisions.

”I’ll be glad when the process is over,” said Texas’ Ron

Washington, who will manage the AL squad. ”I did my homework, I’ll

consult with my coaching staff and I’ll probably reach out to a few

guys, a few managers that’s done this before. But I only get so

many to choose, and all I have to do is look at the roster that’s

been put out there and we’re going to choose according to our need,

to make sure we’re covered.”

The league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World

Series again, and the NL finally wrested it away last year with its

first victory in 13 games since 1996.

So without regard to fan or player balloting, here are our picks

for the 82nd All-Star game. Rosters will be announced Sunday.

Starting with the AL:

First Base – Gonzalez has been an RBI machine in his first

season with Boston. Thanks to a smooth glove, he edges Detroit

bopper Miguel Cabrera for the start. Chicago’s Paul Konerko and New

York’s Mark Teixeira also make the team.

Second Base – Cano is the clear choice even though he hasn’t

played as well as last year, when he finished third in AL MVP

voting for the Yankees. The backup job goes to underrated Ben

Zobrist of Tampa Bay.

Shortstop – Asdrubal Cabrera has provided power at the plate and

spectacular defense in a breakout season for the surprising

Indians. That impressive combination earns him the starting nod

over Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta, who also warrants his first

selection. Left off here is the 37-year-old Jeter, who had a

comfortable lead at last count in fan voting and appears headed to

his 12th All-Star game despite that strained calf and a season-long

slump. Six hits shy of 3,000, he was set to come off the disabled

list early next week, so perhaps he’ll be healthy enough to play in

the Midsummer Classic. Who knows? It could be his last All-Star

hurrah.

Third Base – Rodriguez also held a sizable lead in fan

balloting, but his numbers at the plate put him neck-and-neck with

Red Sox rival Kevin Youkilis. Give the nod to A-Rod, with Youkilis

securing a reserve role.

Catcher – Another young player enjoying a breakthrough season is

Tigers catcher Alex Avila. He gets the surprise start and his

backup is, well … his backup. Avila’s emergence has allowed

Detroit to use Victor Martinez mostly as a DH, but he’s still

caught more than 20 games and his bat is awfully productive. With

apologies to Cleveland’s Carlos Santana, put Martinez on the club

as a catcher and there’s no need to pick another backstop who

doesn’t quite deserve it. Plus, it would make for a neat anomaly:

two All-Star catchers from one big league team.

Outfield – Toronto slugger Jose Bautista had received more

All-Star votes than anyone else in the majors, a sign that fans are

paying attention even when he connects in Canada. He starts in

right field, with New York’s Curtis Granderson in center and

Quentin from the White Sox in left. On the bench is Ellsbury,

another Boston entry, along with Baltimore’s Adam Jones,

Minnesota’s Michael Cuddyer and Kansas City’s Alex Gordon, finally

fulfilling his promise after switching from third base to left

field.

Designated Hitter – Ortiz was running away with the fan vote,

and deservedly so. Popular as ever in Boston, Big Papi can still

swing it. The other choice at DH is Texas stalwart Michael Young,

who could also fill in as an infielder if needed.

Starting Pitchers – Detroit flamethrower Justin Verlander is

blossoming into the consistent and dominant ace that was always

expected. He seems to flirt with a no-hitter every time he takes

the mound – and he finished one off this year in Toronto. Verlander

earns the start on a staff that includes fellow right-handers Josh

Beckett (Boston), James Shields (Tampa Bay) and Felix Hernandez

(Seattle), along with Angels teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren.

The lefties are CC Sabathia (New York), C.J. Wilson (Texas) and Gio

Gonzalez (Oakland).

Relievers – Mariano Rivera is closing in on the career saves

record and shows no signs of slowing down at age 41. New York’s

longtime relief ace is joined in the bullpen by Detroit’s Jose

Valverde, Cleveland’s Chris Perez and Tampa Bay first-timer Kyle

Farnsworth.

And in the NL:

First Base – Fielder is having a huge season for Milwaukee in

the final year of his contract. The best thing to do, however,

would be to start him at DH and put Votto at first base because the

Cincinnati slugger, last year’s NL MVP, is more adept on defense.

Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard brings his big bat off the bench.

Second Base – Weeks gives the Brewers a powerful threat at the

top of the lineup. His backups are Brandon Phillips, an all-around

cornerstone for the Reds, and Washington rookie Danny Espinosa.

Shortstop – New York Mets dynamo Jose Reyes has been the game’s

most electrifying player this season, dashing around the bases on

doubles, triples and steals. His glove is a plus, too, so he looks

primed to cash in as a 28-year-old free agent next winter –

especially if he’s healthy most of the year. Reyes left Saturday’s

game with tightness in his left hamstring. Behind him is Colorado’s

Troy Tulowitzki, another multitalented star.

Third Base – A thin crop this year, so Braves switch-hitter

Chipper Jones takes a bow. Sure, it’s partly a lifetime achievement

award, but who else would you rather see in this game? Aramis

Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs is on the bench.

Catcher – No doubt about this one. Atlanta’s Brian McCann, the

MVP of last year’s All-Star game, is a runaway choice for his sixth

selection – and first start. Backing him up behind the plate is

Miguel Montero from the hometown Diamondbacks.

Outfield – The starting spots are easy: In center field is Kemp,

the first-half MVP from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s flanked by

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun in left and a revitalized Lance Berkman of

St. Louis in right. After that it gets tricky, because there are

about a dozen worthy candidates. Here’s who makes the cut:

Arizona’s Justin Upton, New York’s Carlos Beltran, Cincinnati’s Jay

Bruce, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, Houston’s Hunter Pence and

Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez. Left off is Andre Ethier, despite his

30-game hitting streak, and Matt Holliday, who missed 20 games

because of a leg injury and an appendectomy.

Starting Pitchers – Roy Halladay won the NL Cy Young Award in

his first season with Philadelphia and follows it up this year with

an All-Star game start. Phillies left-handers Cliff Lee and Cole

Hamels are also on the staff, along with Atlanta’s Jair Jurrjens,

Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw, San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum,

Arizona’s Ian Kennedy, Florida’s Anibal Sanchez and St. Louis’ Kyle

Lohse.

Relievers – Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan went into the

weekend perfect in 23 save chances. Joining him in the bullpen are

San Francisco’s Brian Wilson, San Diego’s Heath Bell and

Cincinnati’s Francisco Cordero.

AP Sports Writers Antonio Gonzalez in San Francisco and Stephen

Hawkins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.