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All-Star nod the start for Mulder
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07/12/2004  4:53 PM ET
All-Star nod the start for Mulder
Pitching on two days' rest, lefty savors challenge
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Mark Mulder, now tied for the MLB lead with 12 wins, hasn't lost since April 28. (Mark Duncan/AP)

HOUSTON -- Mark Mulder isn't one for conjecture. He prefers to keep everything simple, on and off the mound.

So as he cruised through May and June, his win-loss record getting more and more lopsided while his ERA kept shrinking, Mulder stayed away from All-Star talk the way most pitchers steer clear of Barry Bonds.

"It's not that I feel like talking about it is going to jinx anything," he said in late June. "I just don't see the point of it. Until something's official, it's not an issue."

It became an issue July 4, when Mulder was named to the American League team for the second consecutive year. And on Monday, when AL manager Joe Torre made official Mulder's selection as the Junior Circuit's starting pitcher for Tuesday's tilt, Oakland's silky smooth 6-foot-6 lefty had no choice. He had to talk.

"It will be fun," Mulder said at Monday's All-Star press conference. "It's definitely an honor being chosen to start the game. I was fortunate to get into last year's game, and I think this year, being here and being able to start, is going to be a lot of fun."

2004 All-Star Game

Mulder gave up a run on five hits over two innings of relief in the 2003 All-Star game, and afterward he admitted to being a little "freaked out" by facing the National League's power-packed lineup. The NL squad is no less formidable this time around, but Mulder joked that a certain team from the Bronx might have him a little more prepared to face the firepower.

"Having to go and face a lineup like the National League is throwing out there, it's not that thrilling," he said. "But I guess we face an All-Star lineup facing the Yankees every so often."

Utilizing a seven-pitch arsenal highlighted by what scouts call a "heavy" sinker, Mulder went 12-2 with a 3.21 ERA in the first half. And according to fellow A's All-Star Tim Hudson, Mulder, 27, is getting better all the time.

"He struggled a little bit as a rookie [in 2001], but every year since, he's been real good and real consistent," Hudson said. "It's like he's figured it out. I mean, you can't expect a guy to go out and dominate every time out, but he's pretty much done it.

"Two bad starts in a row doesn't really happen to Mark. It just doesn't. And there's not many guys you can say that about."

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who played behind Mulder for three years before leaving Oakland as a free agent in the offseason, is similarly impressed.

"He's learning how to pitch in this league and how to be consistent," Tejada said. "That's great for him. I'm real happy with what he's doing."

Mulder beat the Indians on Saturday in his last start of the first half, so he'll be pitching Tuesday on two days' rest. But he normally throws a fairly intense bullpen two days after his starts, so the All-Star Game will serve as that side session this time around.

"Not that it's the same thing, because my sides are usually 30-40 pitches, and getting ready to start a game you throw 30-40 in the bullpen alone," he said last week. "But I don't think it'll be an issue at all. I'm going to try to forget about having the best hitters in the National League trying to take my head off and throw my game.

"I just want to do well and try not to embarrass myself."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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