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Torre's team takes aim at Clemens
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07/12/2004 10:52 PM ET
Torre's team takes aim at Clemens
Astros pitcher makes first All-Star start for NL
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Joe Torre will counter his former ace Roger Clemens with Oakland's Mark Mulder. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)

HOUSTON -- Now that starting pitchers have been named, injured players have been replaced and regular season games have taken a three-to-four day hiatus, nothing is standing in the way of the 75th All-Star Game.

Considered the best All-Star exhibition of the four major sports, Major League Baseball's Midsummer Classic will again feature the brightest in the game, as voted by baseball's fans, players and managers.

The storylines this year ooze with intrigue. Roger Clemens pairing up with catcher Mike Piazza. Clemens appearing in his first All-Star Game as a National Leaguer, facing his former Yankee manager and an American League team comprised largely of his former Yankee teammates.

Unfortunately, one storyline was cut short when Ken Griffey Jr. tore his hamstring in a recent game, making him unavailable to play on Tuesday. Had he played, it would have been the first time in history an All-Star team featured three 500-home run hitters in its starting outfield.

Hometown fans, however, will be able to cheer one of their own, Lance Berkman, who will take Griffey's place in center field when lineups are announced at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night.

National League manager Jack McKeon announced his starting lineup on Monday: SS Edgar Renteria, 1B Albert Pujols, LF Barry Bonds, 3B Scott Rolen, RF Sammy Sosa, C Piazza, CF Berkman, 2B Jeff Kent and RHP Clemens.

Joe Torre followed with his American League All-Star lineup: CF Ichiro Suzuki, C Pudge Rodriguez, RF Vladimir Guerrero, CF Manny Ramirez, 3B Alex Rodriguez, 1B Jason Giambi, SS Derek Jeter, 2B Alfonzo Soriano, RHP Mark Mulder.

The Astros didn't seem to mind that they were all clumped in the bottom of the order.

"I thought they were going to have me bat 10th or 11th," Kent joked. "I'm happy to just be in the lineup somewhere."

McKeon dabbled with the idea of batting Bonds first, perhaps thinking the opposing pitcher would not be so inclined to walk the left fielder intentionally.

McKeon need not have worried.

"I'm definitely not going to try to walk Bonds, let's put it that way," Mulder said. "Hopefully, he'll put it in play and I'll throw some strikes to him."

Pitching to Bonds will probably apply for as long as the left fielder is in the game.

2004 All-Star Game

"I don't intend to walk Barry Bonds because I don't think Jack's going to leave him in until the eighth or ninth inning, [and that] would be the only time that strategy would come into play," Torre said. "But I think these fans paid to see a great ballgame tomorrow night and hopefully we can deliver that."

For Clemens, getting the starting nod was expected, for both statistical and sentimental reasons. Numbers-wise, he's obviously deserving with a 10-3 record and 2.62 ERA.

But had McKeon picked anyone else but Clemens, a Houston native pitching for his hometown team for the first time in his 21-year career, he would have probably been booed right out of Minute Maid Park during pregame introductions.

Clemens, who will receive a special lifetime achievement award upon exiting his start Tuesday, is one of two All-Stars who are at least 40 years old. Clemens is 41, while left-hander Randy Johnson, only months removed from his perfect game, is 40. Bonds will turn 40 on July 24.

While Torre hopes to "beat his brains out tomorrow night," the Yankee skipper will always have admiration for Clemens, who won two World Series rings during his time in New York.

"I think it's a great example for youngsters, because Roger, in spite of his natural-born ability, has never taken anything for granted and has worked very hard," Torre said. "I think it's great theater for him to be home and to be able to start, but it is going to be a little strange after the last five years or so, having him on my side."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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