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Picking NL’s All-Star Starter Won’t Be a Picnic For Pilot Brian Snitker

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Dodger star Clayton Kershaw is a strong candidate to start the July 19 All-Star Game for the NL.Arturo Pardavila III, Hoboken, NJ, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Dan Schlossberg

As a rule, starting pitchers who work the Sunday before the All-Star Game will be bypassed for the Tuesday night All-Star Game.

But big guns like Max Fried and Max Scherzer, who faced each other in Atlanta Monday, should both be eligible.

In fact, National League manager Brian Snitker has a plethora of pitching choices.

If he wants his own guy, Fried would be a perfect fit. He not only pitched six scoreless innings in last year’s World Series clincher for Atlanta but has been lights-out this year after a pedestrian start.

Fried was born in Santa Monica, so he has Southern California roots. And he throws left-handed, which makes him especially valuable against such southpaw sluggers as Shohei Ohtani.

Clayton Kershaw, once idolized by Fried, is another port-sider with promise. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, he pitched seven perfect innings in his 2022 debut before departing. Plus he wears Dodger blue — a big inducement for a game in Chavez Ravine.

The best left-handed pitcher of his generation, he’s arguably the best in franchise history [Sandy Koufax had a short career]. Kershaw’s No. 22 will hang in left field among the retired Dodger numbers after his eventual Hall of Fame induction.

“I’m just grateful he’s healthy,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of the veteran lefty, who missed a month with a back injury. “He’s done a lot to make sure he stays on the field. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-Star. He’s one of the best in baseball. He’s efficient. He’s prepared. He commands the baseball. And he can limit damage.”

Over the last week, Kershaw’s name has been at the forefront of All-Star conversation. Over his first 63 2/3 innings, his 2.40 ERA was enough to win him a spot on the National League squad.

Freddie Freeman, a former Kershaw foe who’s now a teammate, added, “He should be able to pitch in his home stadium. He’s been pitching like an All-Star this year.”

One thing missing from the Kershaw resume is an All-Star start. With the game in Los Angeles for the first time in 42 years, Braves manager Brian Snitker has a chance to give the veteran lefty that honor.

Then there’s Kershaw teammate Tony Gonsolin, who’s spent most of this season leading the majors in wins and earned run average. A right-hander, he should be able to throttle AL sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.

But the best potential starter of all just might be Miami’s Sandy Alcantara. Until this year, he was the poster child for Non-Support. But the Fish have shown some life, especially lately, and their No. 1 pitcher has a reputation for lasting deep into games without giving up much of anything.

Scherzer could get the call too now that he’s back from an oblique strain that shelved him for seven weeks. The highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, Scherzer may be 37 but he’s still at the top of his game, always capable of throwing a no-hitter or winning a Cy Young. Plus he’s started four previous All-Star Games, including last year’s.

Neither Scherzer nor teammate Taijuan Walker, who’s also pitched well this year, was on the NL roster announced last weekend but that could change, especially when the Senior Circuit needs subs for pitchers who work this Sunday [both Fried and Scherzer are scheduled to pitch Saturday].

For Brian Snitker, he has to wonder whether it’s wise to reward his own guy or hold him back for a division title chase that figures to be excruciatingly close. Since All-Star starters usually go two innings tops, whomever he picks will probably be pushed back only a day or so.

I’m betting he rewards Max Fried. And I think he’ll get instant dividends from the decision.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ will be covering the All-Star Game and Hall of Fame Inductions for forbes.com. The author of 40 baseball books is available for speaking engagements and book signings. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.c

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