PHOENIX — Playing for the American League in the All-Star Game might be an honor, but playing for the Rays in a pennant race is still David Price's job.
With that in mind, the Tampa Bay left-hander made no apologies for declining his spot on the All-Star roster with a sudden case of turf toe. By skipping tonight's game, Price will be available to start against Boston and New York in the first week of the season's second half.
"For a lot of guys, it's kind of a personal decision," Price said. "You can't blame anyone who wants to let their bodies get a little bit of time to heal."
Sixteen players were replaced on the All-Star roster, though most had no choice. Six starting pitchers were ineligible — including Tampa Bay's James Shields — because they pitched Sunday. Six more players are on the disabled list.
Price was among four players — along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Placido Polanco — who declined due to nagging health issues. Price and Polanco still went to Arizona to take part in the festivities. Jeter and Rivera skipped the game.
SHARING A MOMENT: They have not been teammates since in the low minors 10 years ago, but Shields made a point of seeking out Josh Hamilton on Monday morning.
Hamilton, a Rangers outfielder, played an inadvertent role in a tragedy in Texas last week. Hamilton tossed a baseball to 39-year-old Shannon Stone in the bleachers, and the Rangers fan fell to his death while reaching over the railing to catch it.
"I just wanted to give Josh a big hug. He's one of the best guys in baseball, and I know this has been hard for him," Shields said. "It wasn't his fault, but of course it's still hurting him. It was just an unfortunate tragedy."
DERBY DAZE: Because he started Sunday against the Yankees, Shields was automatically ruled out of tonight's game. But the rules didn't say anything about the home run derby, and Shields was ready to campaign for a spot.
"I was kind of disappointed because they chose the teams already and I really wanted to talk to David Ortiz about it," Shields said of the AL captain. "I was going to make a case for myself."
For the record, Shields has a .188 career batting average with no home runs in 32 at-bats.
Phillies chairman and honorary NL president Bill Giles criticized Jeter for skipping the game just days after his 3,000th hit, but Ortiz, of the Red Sox, backed his longtime Yankee rival.
"He always said yes to the All-Star Game," the Boston slugger said. "I think he has the right to, whenever he needs a break you know, to pull himself together, especially coming off an injury. I think people need to respect that."
IMMIGRATION CONTROVERSY: The Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging All-Stars to speak out against the Arizona immigration law, saying they should follow the example set by Jackie Robinson when he broke the game's color barrier more than a half-century ago.
Commissioner Bud Selig ignored calls by some to move the game from Phoenix in the wake of the controversy over the law known as SB 1070.
"It's obviously too late for them to withdraw from the scene," Jackson said Monday by phone. "I think they should play, and they should speak out, which would be of value."
FOR STARTERS: Phillies ace Roy Halladay and Angels star Jered Weaver got the nod as starting pitchers for tonight's game.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. John Romano can be reached at email@example.com.