SONOMA (AP) — Tony La Russa is already thinking about which players he might add to the National League roster for next month’s All-Star game.
La Russa retired after leading St. Louis to the World Series title last year. But Commissioner Bud Selig announced in January that La Russa would become the second retired manager to lead a team in the Midsummer Classic.
La Russa, who attended the NASCAR Sprint Cup stop in Sonoma on Sunday, said he has had a lot of conversations with longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan about the NL roster for the July 10 game in Kansas City.
“It’s an important choice,” he said. “I know within a few days we’re going to get a roster and then you see what teams are not represented.
“I’ve enjoyed staying close (to it), trying to see who’s hot and who deserves to be on the team.”
When asked if Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey or Giants ace Matt Cain would get the start, La Russa also added Cardinals pitchers Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn into the mix.
“I don’t know yet for sure when their spot lines up,” he said. “If a guy is going to pitch on Saturday, you think about if he’s pitching Thursday or Friday then he’s fresher. You’d like to get off the first inning or two with the guy you start and dominate the other side. I’m dancing (around this) as hard as I can dance.”
La Russa spent 16 seasons in St. Louis and managed for 33 seasons overall. He is third on the career list with 2,728 wins, trailing second-place John McGraw by just 35 victories. This will be La Russa’s sixth time managing an All-Star team, three in each league.
He agreed to work for Selig after stepping away from the Cardinals, but he doesn’t see this as his last baseball job.
“I’m really fortunate that the commissioner has given me something to do,” he said. “He knows that at some point I want to be involved with a team, not just in the dugout but in the front office with some responsibility of win or lose.”
The 67-year-old La Russa also managed St. Louis to the title in 2006, when the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in five games in the World Series. One of the most memorable moments of that series occurred when La Russa prompted the umpires to ask Kenny Rogers to clean off his left hand during Game 2, concerned about a brown smudge on the base of his thumb.
Rogers insisted it was a mix of mud, resin, spit and dirt, but La Russa thought otherwise.
So naturally La Russa watched with some interest when Major League Baseball suspended Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta for eight games last week for having pine tar on his glove, “gobs of it,” according to the former manager.
“The only thing that completes the story is especially in the cool weather, which is part of the case in the World Series, the balls are very glossy, slippery and so pine tar is something pitchers use to get a better grip and hitters are happy they use it,” La Russa said. “So it’s the point of grip versus too much to make it do strange things.
“It’s one of those deals, if it gets excessive like Peralta, he got nailed and he took his punishment and he’ll fix it. Eight days is precedent.”
La Russa also visited the garage before Sunday’s race, and was impressed with the scene
“In the end, all these drivers, you can feel all that intensity,” he said. “Those guys are concentrating. I enjoy that a lot. . One winner. A bunch of losers. Tough way to make a living.”