Four Red Sox, three Cubs to start in 2008 All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- Maybe Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and the rest of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs should just play their own All-Star Game.

A charmed season for the Cubs got even better Sunday when they put a team-record seven players on the NL roster. The World Series champion Red Sox also will send seven to Yankee Stadium on July 15.

"They love me everywhere, what can I tell you?" Ramirez said. "That's why I'm here. I guess I'm not stealing money."

Said New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez: "It's going to be weird having them in our locker room."

The Tampa Bay Rays, with the best record in the majors, did not have a single player elected to start. Pitcher Scott Kazmir and catcher Dioner Navarro were added to the AL squad.

"Picking the All-Star team, it's normally based on individual performance," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You can look at our group, individually we don't necessarily stand out, and that's OK. As a team, we totally stand out."

The Yankees will be well represented, too, on a night showcasing Hall of Famers and a famed ballpark in its final year. Rodriguez will be joined by Yankees captain Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera.

There was only one change in the last week of fan voting for starters -- Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun overtook Ken Griffey Jr. in the NL outfield. Griffey finished fourth and was left off the team.

Rodriguez was the top overall vote-getter for the second straight year at 3,934,518 and became a 12-time All-Star, as did Ramirez. Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley led the NL voting with 3,889,602.

The 1958 Yankees hold the record with nine players in an All-Star Game. The Cubs and Red Sox came close when these rosters were announced -- Internet voting this week will determine the 32nd player on each team.

"To be able to represent the Red Sox with that number of Red Sox will be very exciting," AL manager Terry Francona of Boston said. "I'm very proud of that."

Outfielders Kosuke Fukudome and Soriano and rookie catcher
Geovany Soto were chosen to start for the Cubs, who own the best record in the National League. Soriano has been out with a broken left hand, but may return in time to play.

Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster and third baseman
Aramis Ramirez were chosen by NL players, and pitcher Carlos Zambrano was picked by NL manager Clint Hurdle of Colorado.

"It's flattering," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We've played well the first half and these guys that are going are, in a way, largely responsible. We have a few others but these guys have all done their jobs and done them well, and they're being rewarded."

The Cubs, trying to win their first World Series in 100 years, put six players into the All-Star Game in 1988 and 1936.

"Obviously all seven guys have good enough numbers to be there," Zambrano said. "I was kind of like 50-50. I was planning to make a flight to Venezuela, but now I have to change it."

Ramirez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox were elected by fans. Ortiz is on the disabled list with an injured wrist but will attend; Francona said Texas' Milton Bradley would become the designated hitter.

Boston outfielder J.D. Drew, catcher Jason Varitek and closer Jonathan Papelbon were picked by a vote of AL players.

"Definitely be more comfortable," Pedroia said. "That's the biggest thing because a lot of the guys I don't know."

The AL starting lineup: Youkilis at first base, Pedroia at second base, Jeter at shortstop, Rodriguez at third base, outfielders
Josh Hamilton of Texas, Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle and Ramirez, and Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer.

Starting for the NL: Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, Utley at second base, Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, with Soriano, Fukudome and Braun in the outfield. Soto will become the first rookie catcher to start for the NL.

Pitchers Joe Saunders of the Angels and Cliff Lee of Cleveland were among 14 first-time AL stars. Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez were among the NL's 11 newcomers.

The AL candidates for the last spot in Internet voting: outfielders Jermaine Dye and Jose Guillen, first baseman Jason Giambi, second baseman Brian Roberts and third baseman Evan Longoria.

The NL candidates: outfielders Pat Burrell, Corey Hart, Carlos Lee and Aaron Rowand and third baseman David Wright.

Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins, Detroit outfielder Magglio Ordonez and Boston third baseman
Mike Lowell were among the top players left out.

"Every year there are guys who make it that people question and there are guys that probably have the numbers that don't make it," Lowell said.

Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.12 ERA), the Yankees' Mike Mussina (11-6, 3.64) and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse (10-2, 3.61) also were left off.

Once again, the league that wins the All-Star Game will get home-field advantage in the World Series.

The AL has not lost an All-Star Game since 1996 at Veterans Stadium. Since then, the AL has won 10 and tied one. Overall, the NL leads 40-36-2.

"It's more than just an All-Star Game, it's like a celebration of Yankee Stadium," Jeter said.