07/14/08 2:10 PM ET
Francona unveils loaded AL lineup
Lee gets the nod over Halladay as starting pitcher
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Having full respect for the history and magnitude of the game, Francona thought long and hard about his decisions.
Indians left-hander Cliff Lee was named as the starting pitcher.
Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will lead off. Yankees captain and shortstop Derek Jeter will bat second, followed by Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton, perhaps the best story in baseball this season. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will hit fourth, followed by Red Sox slugging left fielder Manny Ramirez, Rangers DH Milton Bradley, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Twins catcher Joe Mauer and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
"We sat down with our staff, actually kind of extensively, and asked everybody to make out their lineup," Francona said. "There's reasons you do it, like [National League manager] Clint [Hurdle] alluded to. We're certainly going to make changes, but first time through the order, we have some balance, we have some speed, we have some left-righty. So if they want to make a move, it's not just where they can run one lefty through our hitters. Hopefully this makes them think a little bit."
Francona also elaborated on his decision to bat Jeter in the No. 2 spot despite the fact the veteran Yankees star is having, by his standards, an off year.
"For me, a Derek Jeter deserves to hit at the top of the order in a place like this, especially," Francona said. "This is Dustin's, in my opinion, not his last All-Star Game, but his first All-Star Game. Same thing with Youk."
And the decision to start Indians ace Lee over complete-game machine Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays?
"There's a lot of pitchers this year that are having outstanding years, and none measured up to Cliff's," Francona said. "From his very first start to three days ago, he's been the most outstanding pitcher in the league."
Though there was some scuttlebutt in recent days about Yankees closer Mariano Rivera possibly getting the start, Francona confirmed that was a media topic and not one that he gave serious consideration to.
"One of the things we talked about all week was treating the game with respect, knowing where we're playing, who's playing, who's participating," Francona said. "Mariano might be the greatest reliever of all time, but he's not a starter."
The manager continued to have fun with the topic of who his closer will be. Jonathan Papelbon, Francona's ace closer for the Red Sox; Rivera; Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez and Twins fireballer Joe Nathan are all having dominant seasons.
"We're not going to announce our rotation yet," Francona said. "Clint doesn't need our help. We'll wait. Out of the spirit of the game and competition, and having a little bit of fun, we're not going to announce the rest of our rotation yet."
But Francona has thought long and hard about ways to get the most out of his team, knowing that the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.
"We'll actually thank the players in advance for their cooperation and explain to them, we're trying to cover winning the game, which is the most important thing," Francona said. "And also having as many players participate in this game and show what they can do, because they're the best players in the game."
Typically, when Francona is in Yankee Stadium, it is an extremely stressful event against a fierce rival. This time, he hopes to be able to soak in at least some of what should be a magical night.
"We're honored, not only as a staff, but as the players, to represent not only the Red Sox, but the American League, in this final [All-Star] game in New York at Yankee Stadium," Francona said. "We are all aware of what's happened because of the success of the franchise, and we're looking forward to competing against the National League, and hopefully it's a game that they will talk about forever."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.