By Larry Fine
(Reuters) – Derek Jeter will be making his 14th and final All-Star appearance, while dynamic Yasiel Puig makes his Midsummer Classic debut on Tuesday in the contest where home field advantage in the World Series goes to the winning league.
New York Yankees captain Jeter, the All-Star Game most valuable player in 2000, has announced this will be his last season and festivities at Target Field in Minneapolis are sure to include a tribute to the five-time World Series winner, who is currently ninth on the all-time hits list with 3,408.
The 40-year-old shortstop will be playing next to familiar second base partner Robinson Cano, who was voted in by the fans in his first season in Seattle after the Mariners signed him to a $240 million free agent deal after nine years in New York.
Cano’s Seattle team mate Felix Hernandez (11-2) will be starting pitcher for the American League, while Adam Wainwright (12-4) of the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals has the starting assignment for the Senior circuit.
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Wainwright described the honor as “something every starter dreams to do.”
Puig, meanwhile, celebrated his selection to the game by having his hair cut into a star on the left side of his head.
The Cuban native electrified fans around the major leagues with his eye-popping skills and exuberance when he came up for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season but given his late call-up to the big leagues, he missed being named a 2013 All Star.
Making his All-Star debut in the AL lineup will be third baseman Josh Donaldson of Oakland, one of six members of the AL West-leading A’s on the All-Star roster.
Besides last year’s home run derby winner Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and pitchers Scott Kazmir and Sean Doolittle are also on the AL squad.
Oakland even has yet another All-Star on their team – pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was voted onto the NL team but was traded by the Chicago Cubs to Oakland and will not be playing.
The AL lineup packs power in the middle of the order with two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers followed by Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz of the Baltimore Orioles.
“You look at a third baseman with Oakland (Donaldson) who’s hitting in the 8-hole, who’s got nearly 20 home runs…it reflects the caliber of players, the depth in it, and the reserves will be coming in behind these guys are deserving to start in their own right,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, skipper of the AL team.
Three Milwaukee Brewers players feature in the NL starting lineup with Carlos Gomez in the outfield, Aramis Ramirez at third base and Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate representing the NL Central leaders.
Rounding out the starting crew for the NL are Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen, Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and Chase Utley of the Phillies.
The AL starting lineup also includes the Angels’ MVP candidate Mike Trout, Baltimore’s Adam Jones and Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez.
Last year’s All-Star MVP was Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who was playing in his 13th and final All-Star before retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in Winchester, Kentucky; Editing by Gene Cherry)