INJURIES ALTER ALL-STAR-TERS : THOMAS, ALOMAR DOUBTFUL.
As major-league baseball's All-Stars gathered Monday for the 67th clash between the American and National Leagues, the run of injuries continued to take an alarming toll, adding a sense of vulnerability to the lineups for tonight's game.
Three elected starters - Tony Gwynn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Matt Williams - will not play, and two others, Frank Thomas and Roberto Alomar, are nursing injuries and are doubtful.
Such perennial stars know their places in history as well as the lore of their leagues. But their injuries will make way for younger headliners such as Alex Rodriguez, 20, of the Seattle Mariners and other first-time All-Stars like the New York Yankees' 24-year-old left-hander, Andy Pettitte.
Not that the leagues will be caught with all their stars down. Both will run out pretty impressive lineups, beginning with the starting pitchers: Cleveland's Charles Nagy (11-2, 3.53 earned run average) for the AL, and Atlanta's John Smoltz (14-4, 3.16 ERA) for the NL.
In choosing Nagy, Mike Hargrove, the Cleveland Indians skipper who is managing the AL squad, passed over Pettitte, a 13-game winner, without apology. And he fit his league's top home run hitter, Brady Anderson of Baltimore, into the No. 8 slot in the order despite 30-home run credentials.
Bobby Cox, the manager of the Atlanta Braves and Hargrove's All-Star counterpart, couldn't even use his league's leading home run hitter, Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, because he didn't put Sosa on the roster.
``It's not an enviable position to be in,'' said Cox, who could only select 28 players. ``Even if you expand to 35, there would still be three or four guys you could make a case for.''
The New York Mets' Lance Johnson did make the cut to be a starter. Then he found, to his amazement and delight Monday, that he had been inserted into the starting lineup in place of Gwynn, the San Diego Padres' outfielder who is out with an Achilles tendon injury.
``It's really an honor,'' said Johnson, who has already set the Mets' record for triples in a season, with 13. ``I know the fans didn't pick me, but I know a lot of them are happy for me.''
The Mets had not had a player start the All-Star Game since 1989, when Howard Johnson opened at third base.
Johnson replaces Gwynn, Cox said, because he is the only reserve who is a true center fielder. Cox named one of his own players, Chipper Jones, to replace the injured Williams of San Francisco at third. Williams has a bruised left elbow after being hit by a pitch over the weekend.
The AL lineup won't be exactly what the fans voted for, either, for it will be missing Griffey, its leading vote-getter and premier center fielder, who is out with a broken hand. And other casualties loom.
Alomar's jammed ring finger left the immediate availability of the Orioles' second baseman unknown. Alomar was to arrive in Philadelphia tonight after receiving treatment in Baltimore.
Thomas, the Chicago White Sox's first baseman and the AL leader in runs batted in, was also a question mark. He pulled out of the home run-hitting contest because of a left ankle he sprained in a game last Thursday, and could miss the gala exhibition at Veterans Stadium.
Hargrove said if Alomar could not go, Minnesota's Chuck Knoblauch would replace him in the starting lineup. If Thomas could not start, Hargrove said, Mo Vaughn of the Boston Red Sox would play first. ``I just don't know right now,'' Thomas said. ``I played three days in a row on it, but I'm hobbled pretty bad.''
As for Pettitte, the left-hander expressed no disappointment at not being selected to start. ``Charles has had a great start and he deserves to start,'' said Pettitte, whose first half (13-4 with a 3.81 ERA) was pretty impressive, too.
``I don't look at myself as the ace of the staff,'' he said. ``There are too many veterans on the team to put that kind of pressure on myself.''
Why not Pettitte, Hargrove was asked? ``I looked at the stats, and Charlie and Andy were pretty close,'' he said. Referring to Joe Torre, the Yankees manager, Hargrove added: ``I spoke with Joe yesterday and there were some concerns about Andy's arm. They both deserved it, but Charlie was the guy that I wanted to start the game.''
Pettitte has been fighting through some elbow stiffness for about a month, but Hargrove said Torre did not ask him not to start or pitch Pettitte. ``He just asked us to be careful,'' Hargrove said. ``We were going to do that, anyway.''
Chart: STARTING LINEUPS