07/12/2004 1:22 PM ET
Powerful NL pieces in place
League manager McKeon builds around Bonds
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
|Jack McKeon considered leading off with Barry Bonds, but will bat the Giants' slugger third. (Dino Vournas/AP)
HOUSTON -- After kicking around various scenarios for three days, Jack McKeon settled on an imposing National League All-Star lineup that will feature slugger Barry Bonds anchoring the third spot and Major League RBI leader Scott Rolen hitting cleanup.
McKeon, the crafty 73-year-old Florida Marlins manager, toyed with a number of lineups for Tuesday's All-Star Game at Minute Maid Park.
To maximize the dangerous Bonds, McKeon gave consideration to leading off the San Francisco Giants' perennial star. But with the American League starting Oakland A's left-hander Mark Mulder, and McKeon wanting Bonds to hit with runners potentially on base, the veteran manager opted to lead off St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria.
McKeon also thought about leading off Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols or Houston Astros second baseman Jeff Kent.
"I thought about it for about three days," McKeon said. "I thought of leading off Kent, Pujols and Bonds."
Cincinnati Reds center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. also was a leadoff possibility until he suffered a hamstring injury and was scratched from the game.
As expected, Astros right-hander Roger Clemens will start in his first National League season.
"I selected a guy who is a future Hall of Famer," McKeon said. "A guy who is an outstanding example for all the youngsters in baseball, Little League, high schools and minor leagues. He's a guy with a tremendous work ethic. He's been successful for many, many years."
From the time Clemens was 7-0, McKeon was leaning toward starting the Rocket, barring a collapse.
McKeon said Clemens will not likely pitch more than two innings. Who will follow as the National League pitcher has not been decided. Choices include San Francisco's Jason Schmidt, who is riding an 11-game win streak, or Arizona's Randy Johnson, who leads the Majors with 145 strikeouts.
And how long Bonds will play also is up in the air. Most likely it will be three or four innings, or at least two at-bats.
American League manager Joe Torre says he will not intentionally walk the dangerous Bonds, who leads the National League with a .365 batting average while connecting on 23 home runs.
"It ran through my mind," McKeon said of leading off Bonds. "But since [Torre] is not going to walk him the first time up, he could hit with [maybe] a couple of people on."
With Griffey out, the game misses out on a piece of history because the National League was primed to start three outfielders with more than 500 home runs apiece. The Astros' Lance Berkman will replace Griffey in the starting lineup.
Going with Renteria at the top of the order provides the lineup with speed. And after Rolen at cleanup, the National League will go with Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa and New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza. Berkman, Kent and Clemens round out the order.
A late addition to the National League squad is Astros center fielder Carlos Beltran, who takes the spot vacated by Griffey.
Beltran, who started the season with the Kansas City Royals, was in the unusual position of having been voted by the players, managers and coaches to play for the American League before being traded to the National League.
"He's got All-Star numbers and he kind of got caught in a trap," McKeon said of Beltran, who will be a reserve. "He was selected by the American League and then he got traded. What it came down to is he was a viable choice."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.