Just like many of the Devil Rays' games, the selection of their All-Star representative came with a twist at the end.
Neither Rocco Baldelli nor Aubrey Huff, for weeks the logical candidates, is going, and rookie pitcher Lance Carter, who recently has not even been the Rays' most effective reliever, is.
"I'm probably as surprised as you guys are," Carter said.
Essentially, Baldelli and Huff were victims of the new selection process and were passed over in favor of Detroit's Dmitri Young. (Who just happens to be the older brother of the Rays' No. 1 draft pick, Delmon Young.)
"I'm surprised," Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "At the same time I'm happy for Lance and I think it's a good choice, I'm disappointed that neither Rocco nor Aubrey made the ballclub because in my mind they both deserve to be on it."
With fans voting for the nine starters and the new player-coach-manager voting producing nine reserves and eight pitchers, AL manager Mike Scioscia and MLB officials were left with only five of the 31 spots to fill - four pitchers and one position player.
With each team required to be represented and no Devil Ray or Tiger earning selection through either ballot, their decision came down to a package deal:
If they were going to take the deserving Young (.293, 17 homers, 47 RBIs), they would have to take a Rays pitcher, and Carter, 5-3 with a 4.17 ERA and 14 saves in 20 chances, was the best choice.
If they took Baldelli (.309-5-40) or Huff (.307-16-49), they would have had to take a Tigers pitcher and, well, Mike Maroth, with a 4-12 record and 4.81 ERA, probably was the best candidate.
Both Baldelli and Huff were under consideration, but Baldelli had more popular support.
He finished 11th among outfielders in the fan balloting with 497,495 votes and was sixth in the player-coach-manager voting with 81, eight behind Baltimore's Melvin Mora, who was "elected" because the No. 1 and No. 4 finishers, Ichiro Suzuki and Manny Ramirez, were voted in by the fans.
Huff, on the ballot as a third baseman, didn't finish in the top eight, which was all MLB released.
Scioscia and the MLB officials had another chance to add Baldelli and/or Huff but declined to include them among the five finalists for the 32nd roster spot, which will be determined by fan Internet voting, opting for Oakland outfielder Eric Byrnes; a potential third catcher in Boston's Jason Varitek and Anaheim's Bengie Molina; or an extra first basemen in New York's Jason Giambi and Chicago's Frank Thomas.
"I'd be lying to say I'm not a little disappointed," Huff said. "We were all pretty shocked, but everyone's happy for Lance. He's been through a lot in his career, two Tommy John surgeries, and coming out this year and proving himself as a closer for our team, obviously we're all happy for him. There's been a lot of talk about me and Rocco and he's always been left out, but he got in the game."
Baldelli, the 21-year-old rookie sensation, said he would have liked the opportunity but won't mind the three days off: "There's some positives to come of me getting three days' rest, and I'll take it. I was going to go home (to Rhode Island), but I think I'll go fishing and be a bum for three days."
Carter, a 28-year-old Bradenton native, was sitting by the bullpen talking to his father, Zeb, before the game when he got word Piniella wanted to see him. Given his recent struggles (two blown saves and a near miss in his past four outings) and Piniella's Saturday comments that he would be used in other situations, he expected the worst.
"I'm like, "Oh, boy, this can't be good,' " Carter said. "Then he called me in the office and he told me and my initial reaction was, "You sure?' It's an honor. . . .
"I thought for sure it would either be Huffy or Rocco, just like you guys. They deserve it just as much as I do. Somehow I got the nomination."
MLB All-Star Game
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. July 15, U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago.
TV: Ch. 13.
TOP VOTE-GETTERS: AL _ Ichiro Suzuki; NL _ Albert Pujols.
INSIDE: 29 first-timers are selected for game that will decide World Series homefield advantage. 5C
Baldelli, Huff spurned
It appears the Rays' Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff were left off the All-Star team in favor of Dmitri Young. How they compare:
Name Avg. H HR RBIs
Baldelli .309 104 5 40
Huff .307 101 16 49
Young .293 90 17 47
Complete teams, 5C
C: Jorge Posada, Yankees
1B: Carlos Delgado, Blue Jays
2B: Alfonso Soriano, Yankees
3B: Troy Glaus, Angels
SS: Alex Rodriguez, Rangers
OF: Hideki Matsui, Yankees; Manny Ramirez, Red Sox; Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
DH: Edgar Martinez, Mariners
C: Ramon Hernandez, A's
1B: Mike Sweeney, Royals (DL)
2B: Bret Boone, Mariners
3B: Hank Blalock, Rangers
SS: Nomar Garciaparra, Red Sox
OF: Garret Anderson, Angels; Melvin Mora, Orioles; Vernon Wells, Blue Jays; Dmitri Young, Tigers
DH: Carl Everett, White Sox
P: Lance Carter, Devil Rays; Brendan Donnelly, Angels; Keith Foulke, A's; Eddie Guardado, Twins; Roy Halladay, Blue Jays; Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Mariners; Esteban Loaiza, White Sox; Mike MacDougal, Royals; Jamie Moyer, Mariners; Mark Mulder, A's; C.C. Sabathia, Indians; Barry Zito, A's
C: Javy Lopez, Braves
1B: Todd Helton, Rockies
2B: Marcus Giles, Braves
3B: Scott Rolen, Cardinals
SS: Edgar Renteria, Cardinals
OF: Barry Bonds, Giants; Albert Pujols, Cardinals; Gary Sheffield, Braves
C: Paul Lo Duca, Dodgers
1B: Richie Sexson, Brewers
2B: Aaron Boone, Reds; Jose Vidro, Expos
3B: Mike Lowell, Marlins
SS: Rafael Furcal, Braves
OF: Jim Edmonds, Cardinals; Luis Gonzalez, Diamondbacks; Andruw Jones, Braves; Rondell White, Padres; Preston Wilson, Rockies
P: Armando Benitez, Mets; Kevin Brown, Dodgers; Shawn Chacon, Rockies (DL); Eric Gagne, Dodgers; Russ Ortiz, Braves; Mark Prior, Cubs; Jason Schmidt, Giants; John Smoltz, Braves; Billy Wagner, Astros; Woody Williams, Cardinals; Mike Williams, Pirates; Randy Wolf, Phillies; x-Kerry Wood, Cubs
x-replacement for Chacon
1998 _ Rolando Arrojo, SP
1999 _ Jose Canseco, DH+; Roberto Hernandez, RP
2000 _ Fred McGriff, 1B
2001 _ Greg Vaughn, OF+
2002 _ Randy Winn, OF
2003 _ Lance Carter, RP
+ Missed the game with an injury.