Dustin Pedroia has a broken foot. Chase Utley needed thumb surgery. Manny Ramirez strained his hamstring.

Every time an ump yells “Play Ball” it seems another All-Star gets hurt. Especially if they’re in a Red Sox or Phillies uniform.

A rash of recent injuries around the majors has left disabled lists dotted with some of baseball’s biggest names: Victor Martinez, Jason Heyward, Troy Tulowitzki, Placido Polanco, Kendry Morales.

Plus, there are all those veteran stars who’ve been sidelined most (or all) of the season, guys like Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Josh Beckett and Joe Nathan.

Leave out a few perennial studs with subpar numbers so far — Johan Santana, Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira — and the All-Star game July 13 at Angel Stadium might just feel a little diluted.

When rosters are announced Sunday they could read like a rehab report, with scores of injury replacements to follow. But there should be plenty of worthy newcomers (David Price, Joey Votto, Ubaldo Jimenez) to go with old, familiar faces: Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Andy Pettitte.

And while the hottest All-Star debate lately has centered on whether 21-year-old pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg should be included after six big league starts, more arguments are sure to follow.

Justin Morneau or Miguel Cabrera at first base for the American League? Rolen or David Wright at third in the NL?

“You have so many guys that are so close,” AL manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees said. “Their numbers are so equal that it makes it difficult, because someone’s always going to feel slighted.”

A handful of rules were tweaked this year.

For instance, any pitcher picked as an All-Star who starts on the Sunday before the game is ineligible to participate and will be replaced on the roster. That prevents managers from ending up in the predicament of having to use a rival team’s ace on short rest, say if the game goes to extra innings.

Nobody wants to jeopardize a player’s health.

Also, rosters were expanded to 34 spots, with the extra one going to a 21st position player in each league. Every club must have a representative, so choosing is still difficult.

“Someone has to get left off that definitely deserves to go,” said Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, who will manage the NL squad for the second consecutive year. “That’s the thing that I don’t like about it. You’ll always run into that.”

This season in particular, there seem to be more struggling teams than usual that lack a legitimate All-Star. They’ll all have at least one pick, though.

“It does hamstring your selections a little bit,” Girardi said. “But you know what? It is a league that’s made up of 30 teams and I believe that every team should be represented. I do. Because if you’re in a market and you don’t have a player on the club, you may not tune in. That just might be a fact. So I think it’s important.”

The league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World Series again, and the AL has refused to give it up. The junior circuit is 12-0-1 since the NL last won in 1996 at Philadelphia’s old Veterans Stadium, including seven straight victories. That’s the longest unbeaten streak in All-Star game history.

“You can have all the fun you want, but it’s more fun if you win,” Manuel said.

Without regard to fan or player balloting, here are our choices for the 81st All-Star game in Anaheim, Calif. And as for Strasburg, he’s not on the list.

Let the kid earn his trip — next year.


Starting with the AL:

First Base — Cabrera said he got sober last winter following a much-publicized drinking binge during the final weekend of the season. Now, he’s chasing a Triple Crown with Detroit. He edges Minnesota slugger Morneau for the start at first base, with Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and Chicago’s Paul Konerko also on the bench.

Second Base — Leading the majors in hitting, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees is a serious MVP candidate and an easy choice at second base. Pedroia’s injury means the surprise backup is gritty first-timer Ty Wigginton, who represents woeful Baltimore. Wigginton is better suited as a corner infielder, but he’s played plenty of second base this season in the absence of injured Brian Roberts.

Shortstop — The double-play combo is all pinstripes. Yankees captain Derek Jeter is having a ho-hum season by his standards, but there’s no bigger star in baseball. Jeter is the only pick, though Toronto’s Alex Gonzalez has shown surprising pop and warrants consideration.

Third Base — Adrian Beltre is putting up big offensive numbers in his first season with Boston. He gets the nod at third over Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, with Texas’ Michael Young making the cut as well. Alex Rodriguez misses out for the second consecutive year after nine straight selections.

Catcher — Martinez is sidelined by a broken thumb, so reigning MVP Joe Mauer of the Twins is really the only worthy choice. He needs a backup, and we’ll go with Kurt Suzuki, which gives Oakland its representative and maintains an open spot on the pitching staff that otherwise would have to go to an Athletics arm.

Outfield — The starters are Texas slugger Josh Hamilton in left, Toronto’s Vernon Wells in center and Chicago’s Alex Rios in right. Reserves include Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford, Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, Cleveland’s Shin-Soo Choo and hometown favorite Torii Hunter of the Angels.

Designated Hitter — Vladimir Guerrero looks 10 years younger in his first season with Texas, and he starts in his return to Angel Stadium. Boston bopper David Ortiz, also rejuvenated, wields a big bat on the bench.

Starting Pitchers — Three years out of college, Price was leading the league in wins and ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays going into his outing Friday night at Minnesota. He gets the ball, heading a staff loaded with left-handers: Seattle’s Cliff Lee, Boston’s Jon Lester, and Pettitte and CC Sabathia from the Yankees. Also making the squad are right-handers Felix Hernandez (Mariners), Jered Weaver (Angels) and Clay Buchholz (Red Sox), assuming his hamstring is OK.

Relievers — Yankees closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera anchors the bullpen, as usual. Joining him are Detroit’s Jose Valverde, Tampa Bay’s Rafael Soriano, Kansas City’s Joakim Soria and Rangers rookie Neftali Feliz.


And in the NL:

First Base — After a rare lull at the plate, three-time MVP Albert Pujols has turned it on. Seniority earns the St. Louis slugger a start over Votto, whose clutch hitting is a big reason Cincinnati is in first place. San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard and Washington’s Adam Dunn also get the call at a power-packed position. There’s just not enough room for Prince Fielder, Troy Glaus or Aubrey Huff, who are all enjoying excellent years.

Second Base — With Utley out at least eight weeks, Atlanta’s Martin Prado steps in to start after leading the league in batting average. Arizona’s Kelly Johnson and Brandon Phillips of the Reds are reserves. Phillips is athletic enough to slide over to shortstop if necessary.

Shortstop — Hanley Ramirez from the Florida Marlins secures his third start in a row. A broken wrist keeps Tulowitzki off the team, making Ramirez the lone selection at shortstop.

Third Base — One player who has remained healthy in 2010 is the oft-injured Rolen, perhaps headed to a Comeback Player of the Year award with Cincinnati. He nudges out Wright, though the Mets star boasts a dangerous right-handed bat that fits nicely at DH against Price. Wright’s boyhood buddy, Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman, also snags a spot. Polanco had a small, dwindling lead over Wright with a few days left in fan balloting, but the Phillies third baseman is sidelined with a sore elbow.

Catcher — The surprise starter is first-timer Miguel Olivo, who is doing all sorts of damage in what began as a part-time role with Colorado. Take a look at the numbers — and his defense. Steady backstop Brian McCann from Atlanta is second string.

Outfield — Colby Rasmus is probably overlooked outside St. Louis, but he’s good enough to merit a start in center field. He’s flanked by Andre Ethier of the Dodgers in left and Milwaukee’s Corey Hart in right. Also on the squad: Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth, Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun, Chicago’s Alfonso Soriano and Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Heyward, Atlanta’s rookie sensation, is on the DL with a badly bruised thumb.

Starting Pitchers — Jimenez (14-1, 1.83 ERA) has been blowing away hitters all season and the Rockies’ ace is an obvious pick to start. Any chance he could win 30 games? The rest of the staff features Florida’s Josh Johnson, Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay, Atlanta’s Tim Hudson, San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum, Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo, Houston’s Roy Oswalt and a pair of St. Louis righties: Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

Relievers — Wagner, who turns 39 this month, just surpassed 400 saves and plans to retire after the season. He’s been nearly untouchable in his first year with Atlanta, after missing most of last season following Tommy John surgery. The rest of the bullpen includes New York’s Francisco Rodriguez, San Diego’s Heath Bell and Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton.

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