Maddon ready to manage AL All-Stars
Implications of game will affect Rays skipper's decisions
ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon is the American League's manager for the 2009 All-Star Game, and Wednesday afternoon he addressed a variety of subjects relating to this year's Midsummer Classic on a conference call.
Among the arms Maddon selected for the AL squad is veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield from Boston. Maddon was asked if he had concerns about how to use him and if the fact catcher Joe Mauer has caught a knuckleballer and Victor Martinez has not would factor into Wakefield's usage.
"It's not going to be easy if you've not caught a knuckleball pitcher before -- it's no fun, obviously," Maddon said. "Regarding exact usage, we'll talk about that when I get a chance to visit with Tim, specifically. But he is the kind of guy you know can pitch multiple innings very easily. Probably the most difficult side of that will be who will catch him. I'll discuss that with Tim when I get a chance to visit with him in person."
Unlike Maddon's father's All-Star Game, today's Midsummer Classic affects which league gets home-field advantage during the World Series. Maddon offered his feelings on that subject and how it will affect the way he manages the game.
"It definitely makes you think differently on how to work the game specifically," Maddon said. "If it was just an exhibition game, I think, as a manager, you're just going to try and get everybody involved, if possible. The fact that the game has implications attached to it, then you're going to have to work this game entirely different. [It means] sitting down in advance, looking at how you're specifically going to use the pitchers, as much as anything. Regarding the position players, you should have enough by the end of the game."
Maddon surmised that for him the reality of the outcome of the game having a bigger impact isn't "really a matter of whether I'm digging it or not."
"I just know you have to approach it differently -- even when it comes right down to pinch-hitting early in the game," Maddon said. "Whoever pinch-hits for the pitcher the first time through may not get a chance to play the field, as an example.
"So there are different considerations, obviously. But for me, I look at it as this is the real world and how it works for Major League Baseball right now. And from my perspective, I have to think a little bit differently in regard to trying to win the game."
Maddon said he thought it might be wise to have pitching alternatives based on the precarious nature of pitchers' arms.
"If you're going to try and play this game to conclusion and you're trying to win the actual game, you definitely have to have enough pitching," Maddon said. "And you don't want to hurt anybody during the course of this game.
"One of the major things you do on a daily basis as a Major League manager is monitor your arms, whether it's your starters or your relievers. You want to take care of these guys. The guys who do pitch on Sunday, we may have a couple of those guys. I've already spoken to at least one of the managers, and [I] really want to try and utilize those pitchers in the briefest of moments. But nevertheless, I've been told that they can pitch."
Maddon only chose two catchers for the game, and he was asked his rationale for doing so, along with his reasoning for not selecting Oakland's Kurt Suzuki, when he appeared to be Oakland's most worthy candidate to become an All-Star.
"First of all, two catchers equals three catchers in the All-Star Game," said Maddon, citing the rule that a catcher is allowed to re-enter the game. "You'd only use the third catcher if one of the other two got hurt, so whoever starts is really the third catcher once he comes out of the game, because you're able to replace the number two guy in the event of an injury.
"So from that perspective, I saw two equaling three. In regard to the individual player chosen, I did some research and called some different people. I'm really a big fan of Suzuki. I think he's very good. I think he does a great job. I think he's one of the better blockers of balls in the dirt in the league. I think he throws well. He has good at-bats. He's a nice player. The other guy, [Oakland reliever Andrew] Bailey, his numbers are very impressive also. I don't think you can denigrate what he's done compared to what Suzuki has done also. So it's a tough decision, like it is in many situations. But what I try to do is look at it realistically and try to get as many opinions as I possibly could and made a decision. That's how it went."
Maddon said he did solicit opinions about players from other managers, but he surmised that ultimately "in the end, it's my decision and not theirs," so if a player wasn't chosen, it was Maddon's fault and not anybody's in that player's organization.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.