Rocket, Mulder to start All-Star Game

HOUSTON -- Mike Piazza will be all set for anything Roger
Clemens throws his way.

Their feud still seemingly unresolved, they're forced to work
together in this All-Star game. The Rocket will start for the
National League on Tuesday night. His nemesis will catch.

"I don't know if we're going to be playing golf anytime soon,"
Piazza said. "But we've got a job to do."

Said Clemens: "It's not that big a deal. It's not an issue."

Then again, it's hard for anyone to forget what happened between
them in 2000. Clemens beaned Piazza in the regular season, then
threw the jagged barrel of a broken bat toward him in the World

"I'm pitching with him now, we're on the same team, so pretty
much it's not a story of what's going on here," Clemens said.

Both players tried to deflect attention to other All-Star
themes, such as how the winner gets home-field advantage in the
World Series, and the presence of 500-homer guys Barry Bonds, Sammy
Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro.

Miguel Tejada outslugged that trio to win the Home Run Derby on
Monday night. The Baltimore shortstop beat Houston's Lance Berkman
in the final round, with both of them launching shots completely
out of Minute Maid Park and onto Crawford Street.

Earlier in the day, all 14 living members of the 500-homer club
gathered at the ballpark once known as Enron Field. Standing next
to Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Mark McGwire, commissioner Bud Selig
praised the power hitters and intoned, "This is a golden era."

But when Ichiro Suzuki steps in to lead off the 75th All-Star
game, chances are all the attention will be on Clemens and Piazza.

Will Clemens shake off Piazza? Will he accidentally bounce a
split-finger fastball? Will they get their signs crossed?

"Obviously, we're going to have to talk," Piazza said.

Clemens said he'd take the same approach he would with any

"I'm sure we'll go over the first handful of hitters," the
Houston ace said.

That might be the most involved discussion they've had in a

After hitting Piazza in the helmet with a fastball at Yankee
Stadium, Clemens tried to phone the New York Mets' star. But Piazza
did not take the call, and the rift began to grow.

Then in Game 2 of the World Series, a truly bizarre scene
occurred when Piazza shattered his bat and Clemens fired a piece of
it in his direction. Clemens was fined $50,000, and they have not
spoken since.

Yet they have talked about each other, albeit reluctantly.

Clemens appeared to grow more agitated Monday with each question
about Piazza, and there were plenty.

Asked whether he could understand why fans might find this so
interesting, Clemens abruptly responded, "No, I don't."

"As far as Mike and I are concerned, I've said many times, I'm
looking forward to it. I'm glad I get to throw it to him and I
don't have to face him because I know what type of hitter he is."

Piazza stared blankly when asked about the pairing.

"The issue ... I don't know what the issue is," he said.
"It's out of my control. It's out of our control. Honestly, I
haven't really thought about it much and I don't think he has,

Others have, though.

"It is ironic," Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin said. "But
as ballplayers, those things happen and you move on."

Like many fans, Los Angeles catcher Paul Lo Duca has seen
umpteen replays of the Clemens-Piazza shenanigans. Last year, Lo
Duca had a run-in with Milton Bradley, then with the Cleveland
Indians. Now, they're teammates and just fine together.

"We took care of that one immediately and put it in the past,"
Lo Duca said. "But you play against a lot of guys you don't like.
I didn't like Jose Lima when I played against him, and now he's on
our team and I love him."

Feuds have long been a part of baseball.

In the early 1900s, the famed double-play combination of
Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance had its problems. Joe Tinker and Johnny
Evers detested each other and didn't speak for years.

More recently, Bonds and fellow All-Star Jeff Kent had trouble.
Even in the last week, All-Star pitcher Randy Johnson and Arizona
teammate Luis Gonzalez barked at each other.

Now, it's Clemens and Piazza.

"There's more to this game than those two," AL manager Joe
Torre of the New York Yankees said. "They understand it. They're

While NL manager Jack McKeon of the Florida Marlins picked
Clemens to start in his hometown, Torre chose Mark Mulder of the
Oakland Athletics.

The AL has a six-game winning streak, not including a tie. The
NL leads the overall series 40-32-2.

This will be the second year the league that wins the All-Star
game gets the home field in the World Series. It didn't help New
York last year when Florida won Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. It's an
idea that does not set well with some players.

"It adds a little bit of spice to the game, but I don't like
it," Boston pitcher Curt Schilling said. "The team with the best
record should have home field."