By JOE SMITH
Times Staff Writer
BOSTON - There's a great chance that LHP David Price will make the All-Star team.
And manager Joe Maddon said you could make a case for tonight's starter, RHP Jeff Niemann, to join him in Anaheim.
Niemann (6-2, 2.72) enters today's game with the fourth-best ERA in the American League, behind Price, Mariners LHP Cliff Lee and Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz. He had a bad outing in a loss to the Marlins; his other loss came when Diamondbacks RHP Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter Friday.
"He's just been a model of consistency," Maddon said. "I know they're not going to talk a lot about him. But he should also be considered for this All-Star team. He's been that good. All his numbers are fantastic. ...
"He's good, but nobody talks about him. And he's so big (6 feet 9). You'd think they would talk about him."
Niemann said he's much more comfortable after having gone through his first full season last year, and it's paying off. He'd be more than glad to repeat his performance his last time out, when he gave up just one run over 71/3 innings, an outing spoiled by Jackson's historic night.
"I'll take seven-plus (innings), one run any day," he said. "I just ran into a buzzsaw in Jackson. It happens sometimes."
UPTON OUT: CF B.J. Upton was out of the lineup for the second straight game, this time as a precaution due to sore right quadriceps suffered Tuesday night.
"He came out and tested it and didn't feel quite right," Maddon said.
Maddon was optimistic Upton would be available to pinch-hit, with his status day to day. Upton hit a pinch-hit triple Tuesday, but Maddon didn't know how the injury took place. "I don't want to talk about it," Upton said.
TOUGH IT OUT: LF Carl Crawford acknowledges that with his sore left shoulder, he's not able to throw at full throttle, and teams are going to try to take advantage of that on the bases.
"Guys will keep taking extra bases like (Adrian) Beltre did (Tuesday night)," Crawford said. "He wouldn't have done that if they knew my shoulder wasn't hurting. It's going to keep happening for a little while, but you've got to go through it until your arm feels better."
But with Maddon saying Crawford doesn't like to DH, he'll likely stay in the field, and the Rays are comfortable with the All-Star's judgment on how to handle his injury. Maddon said the team has to do a good job of positioning its defenders to help him out.
WELCOME BACK: OF Gabe Kapler rejoined the Rays after a stint on the disabled list with a right hip flexor strain, saying he's feeling much better. And Kapler, a 34-year-old veteran, preached perspective when talking about the Rays' recent struggles.
Kapler said with the ebb and flow of a baseball season, teams shouldn't be judged on a three-week span, good or bad, but the All-Star break would be a fair measuring stick.
"If you look at a three-week period of time where we won almost every game, and you said, 'That's the team you are,' you'd be tricking yourself," Kapler said. "And if you looked at a team that is losing a lot of games - that is clearly a good team - you're tricking yourself, too."
An example is the Red Sox, whom many counted out after a rough first month of the season but who are now streaking and just one game back of the Yankees.
"There's no teams that are going to play .800 baseball all year," Kapler said. "And we're definitely not the team we have been the last three weeks."
MINOR MATTERS: 1B Dan Johnson, along with INFs Joe Dillon and Elliot Johnson, will join Durham manager Charlie Montoyo at the International League All-Star Game July 14 in Lehigh Valley, Pa.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ranking of the day
The Rays are No. 6 in ESPN The Magazine's Ultimate Standings. That's up 10 from 2009. The Lightning is 70th, the Bucs 99th. The top 10: Saints, Magic, Angels, Colts, Penguins, Rays, Spurs, Red Wings, Packers and Cavaliers. The rankings of the 112 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams are based on: bang for the buck (wins compared to revenue from fans), fan relations, ownership, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaches and title track (titles won or are expected to be won in the current fans' lifetime). The rankings for the bay area's teams (with last year's in parenthesis):
Bang.................2 (21)......52 (93).......100 (76)
Relations..........17 (19)......56 (61)......103 (71)
Owner..............58 (48)......83 (106)....106 (89)
Affordability.......3 (1)*.......45 (50).......97 (100)
Experience......106 (106)....67 (73).......54 (35)
Players.............19 (23)......86 (93).......98 (72)
Coaches...........24 (25).....119 (86).....104 (88)
Title.................43 (35).......36 (29)......30 (16)
*Now trail Angels and Brewers