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07/10/06 8:00 PM ET

All-Star Yanks savor experience

Midsummer Classic provides respite from challenging season

PITTSBURGH -- Alex Rodriguez knows that there is a lot on the line in this year's All-Star Game -- namely, home-field advantage in the World Series -- but following the first half that A-Rod and his teammates have had to endure, the Midsummer Classic is a welcome distraction.

The Yankees may have the fifth-best record in the Majors, but if the postseason were to begin today, they would be on the outside looking in for the first time since 1993.

"It's been a dogfight, a grueling first half," Rodriguez said. "It's been a race since Day 1. Our team deserves a nice break."

Rodriguez is one of four Yankees on the American League's All-Star team, as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano are also on the roster. Rodriguez and Jeter will start for the AL, while Rivera is expected to serve as the team's closer. Cano, on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, will not play.

"I think everyone needs a few days off," Jeter said. "It's a good thing we have four days, so even the guys who are here will get a couple days off. It's a chance to rest your body and rest your mind."

Don't let A-Rod and Jeter fool you; they want to win the All-Star Game as badly as they want to win every game they play in pinstripes. That's their competitive nature.

However, for the rest of their time in Pittsburgh, their main goal is to enjoy themselves.

"You want to play well, but most importantly, you want to enjoy the entire experience," Jeter said. "You have to have a good time while you're here, because you don't know if you'll have a chance to come back."

"It's always exciting to come back and be around all these players, especially the new players who are here for the first time," Rodriguez said. "To see their wide-eyed look, how excited they are, it makes you feel younger again."

All Rodriguez had to do to see one of those wide-eyed first-timers on Monday was to look to his right, where Cano was talking to reporters about being on the All-Star team for the first time.

"I'm just going to enjoy this; meet all the players," Cano said. "I'm just excited to be here. I look to my right and my left and we've got Mo, A-Rod, Halladay, Ryan -- all the superstars are here."

"Sometimes when you're not playing, you're able to take it in a little more," Rodriguez said, thinking back to his experience in 2000, when he was unable to play due to injury. "You're not nervous for the game, so you can just relax, enjoy it and really see everything."

For Jeter, his election by the fans to be the starting shortstop marks a return to the All-Star Game, as he was not part of the festivities last summer in Detroit.

"When you're not here, you miss it," Jeter said. "You miss the experience. Anyone who says he doesn't want to be in the All-Star Game is lying to you."

"Jeet's a perennial All-Star," Rodriguez said. "He should be here every year."

Cano could hardly contain his smile, as he sat at his table during Monday's media session and looked around at the collection of talent that would be in his clubhouse.

"I don't know when I'll be back again, so I have to make the most of it," said Cano, who hopes to return to the Yankees' lineup in 7-10 days. "Hopefully there will be many more."

Rodriguez, who is making his 10th All-Star appearance, was pretty charged up about the AL's chances on Tuesday.

"To me, the AL is the dominant league right now," A-Rod said. "There's so much talent here, it's unbelievable. This was probably the most competitive All-Star team to make; there are probably 30 guys who didn't make it who should be here, and you can't say that every year."

Rodriguez and Jeter will be joined by Boston's David Ortiz and Mark Loretta as the AL's starting infielders, while Anaheim's Vladimir Guerrero, Toronto's Vernon Wells and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki will man the outfield for the AL.

As talented as the Yankees' lineup may be, A-Rod seemed downright giddy about the team he will call his own on Tuesday.

"You admire guys across the way, but a lot of times, you get caught up in the competitive nature of things," Rodriguez said. "To wear the same uniform as some of these guys for 48 hours is pretty neat."

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