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Torre gets creative with shortstops
07/10/2002 3:17 AM ET
MILWAUKEE -- Perhaps the biggest quandary for American League All-Star manager Joe Torre was how to facilitate using five premier shortstops in just a nine-inning game.

Torre brilliantly created ways to get all five in the All-Star Game -- and was helped because the 7-7 final went 11 innings.

Texas' Alex Rodriguez was the starter, and he played four innings before being replaced by Oakland's Miguel Tejada, who played the next four. The Yankees' Derek Jeter, nursing a sore right knee, made a second-inning pinch-hitting appearance and did not play defense.

Cleveland's Omar Vizquel, who said he would play right field if asked, played an unfamilar position: second base. Meanwhile, Boston's Nomar Garciaparra, making his first All-Star appearance in two years, did not come out of the dugout until the eighth inning, when he pinch-hit for Tejada. Garciaparra played the final three innings.

"We had fun, and I hope everybody else did," Garciaparra said. "We all had a ball."

Torre took some criticism for taking five shortstops and just one true second baseman, Alfonso Soriano. But he said he did not want to turn away five players, all of whom have had standout seasons.

Tejada was a first-time selection, having taken a back seat to Rodriguez, Jeter and Garciaparra for the past few years. Vizquel had not been an All-Star since consecutive appearances in 1998 and '99.

It was Tejada and Vizquel who turned in the most impressive efforts. Tejada singled and scored a run in the AL's four-run seventh inning, and Vizquel delivered an RBI triple in the eighth that tied the score for good.

Third baseman Robin Ventura said he offered Torre even more options for his infield.

"I told Joe I'd play second if he wanted me to," Ventura said. "He had some options, and I thought it was smart to use Omar at second base. But Joe doesn't surprise me. He was able to get all of them in the game."

Of course, as long as the five continue to put up All-Star-like numbers, the AL manager is going to have this problem. Making it a more difficult decision is that four are in the prime of their careers and Tejada is close to his.

Rodriguez doesn't turn 27 until later this month. Garciaparra will be 29 later this month, and Jeter is 28. Tejada is only 26 and already has two 30-homer seasons. Vizquel is the old man of the group at 35 but is experiencing a career season with 10 homers and 47 RBIs; he has won nine straight Gold Glove Awards.

"I just thought it was a great opportunity to take five shortstops because they were all worthy," Torre said. "Tejada, we had to leave him off last year, and Vizquel has made it before. It's pretty exciting that you can take five shortstops and realize what offensive forces they are, in addition to their defensive skill."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.