07/08/09 8:28 PM ET
NL skipper Manuel has dilemma at first
Three first basemen behind Pujols poses tough decision
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Perhaps the face of the All-Star Game is Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, who will start at first base. But Manuel, who will manage the National League, also has three other first basemen on his roster: Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard, who is a St. Louis native.
How long does Pujols get to play?
"I can tell you this," Manuel said in a teleconference Wednesday with American League manager Joe Maddon. "He's probably going to hit third or fourth. I definitely will talk to [Cardinals manager Tony La Russa] about how long he is going to play and everything. I think the kind of season he is having and with the All-Star Game in St. Louis, I think it is absolutely tremendous for Major League Baseball. He's one of the greatest hitters in the game, of course. It's a good time for St. Louis. It's a good time for people to see a representative from the Cardinals."
Manuel also talked about the makeup of his roster, especially because two of the three NL starting outfielders are injured: Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez and Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran. Ibanez could rejoin the Phillies on Friday against Pittsburgh, and if he plays in a couple games over the weekend, Manuel said he expects Ibanez to play in the All-Star Game.
Manuel learned Wednesday that Beltran will not play next week, which means Manuel needs to find a replacement.
If Beltran had been elected on the Players' Ballot, Manuel would have taken the next highest player on the ballot. But because fans elected Beltran as a starter, Manuel has more leeway. That could pave the way for him to take Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino, who is a Final Vote candidate. Victorino currently is in second place behind Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Manuel said he has not decided who will be his starting pitcher.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.