KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Owner of the best record in baseball, R.A. Dickey was hoping to become the first knuckleballer to start an All-Star game since Dutch Leonard in 1943.
A 12-1 record wasn’t good enough. Tony La Russa picked San Francisco’s Matt Cain to start for the National League on Tuesday night.
“I’m not going to break down in tears over it, but at the same time I’m a competitor. I want to pitch. I want to start,” Dickey said Monday. “I feel like I had a good enough first half that I should be considered. But I’m not the boss. I don’t necessarily have to agree with him, but I have to respect it. That’s just the way it is.”
Detroit’s Justin Verlander will start for the American League as the All-Stars return to Kansas City for the first time since 1973.
La Russa, who retired after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to last year’s World Series title, made the decision after consulting with his longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan. Cain had the advantage of pitching a perfect game against Houston on June 13.
“We wanted to reward Matt Cain for a career of excellence that’s getting better and better,” La Russa said. “And he had a great example of that during the summer on one of his pitching days.”
Cain also will be pitching to his regular catcher, Buster Posey. La Russa said Dickey likely will enter the game sometime in the first five innings, around the time Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz replaces Posey behind the plate.
Dickey hopes he wasn’t denied the start just because he throws knuckleballs.
“You’re talking about the best players in the world, and you’re asking about a pitch that’s too nasty to handle?” Dickey said. “I hope that’s not it. If that’s the reason, that’s a poor reason.”
Cain is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA. Dickey, a first-time All-Star at age 37, became the first major leaguer in 24 years to throw consecutive one-hitters.
“We have guys the last couple of years, whether it’s spring training or even during the season, I don’t play against Dickey,” La Russa said. “He can spook you.”
Verlander, 9-5 with a 2.58 ERA, is the first All-Star starter who has won Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP.
“Obviously right now, I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “Actually sitting here just looking over the lineup thinking about how I’m going to pitch these guys.”
The AL’s batting order has Derek Jeter leading off and playing shortstop, followed by Yankees teammate Robinson Cano at second base, Texas left fielder Josh Hamilton, Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista, Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder, Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, Texas catcher Mike Napoli and Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson.
The NL has Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez leading off as the DH, followed by San Francisco center fielder Melky Cabrera, Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran, Posey, Giants third baseman Pedro Sandoval, Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla and St. Louis shortstop Rafael Furcal.
Braun, who finished fourth in NL outfielder voting, takes the place of the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring.
For La Russa, the game marks a full circle. He made his major league debut as a player with the Kansas City Athletics in 1963, when they played downtown at Municipal Stadium.
“To think the last time I’m going to put on a uniform is going to be in Kansas City is just an unbelievable coincidence to believe,” he said.