- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From combined dispatches

NEW YORK | Fired up about his first trip to Yankee Stadium, Ben Sheets had it all planned out. Arrive early and visit Monument Park, gaze up at that famous facade, drink in the entire experience the same way any fan would.

One big difference, though: The Milwaukee Brewers ace also will start Tuesday night’s All-Star Game for the National League.

“I’m not going to let a stadium intimidate me,” Sheets said Monday in a hotel ballroom, hours before zipping uptown for batting practice and workouts. “At least while I’m sitting here I won’t.”

Cleveland’s Cliff Lee was picked by Red Sox manager Terry Francona to start for the American League, highlighting a remarkable resurgence for the left-hander after he was demoted to the minors last year.

Now, he’s the best of the best as Major League Baseball salutes Yankee Stadium in its final season.

“I’m just honored to be here, to be honest with you. To get the start is just icing on the cake,” said Lee, 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA. “I’m kind of awestruck by it.”

NL manager Clint Hurdle of Colorado tabbed Sheets, who is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Several other NL All-Stars pitched Sunday, making the well-rested Sheets a logical choice.

“Really looking forward to this opportunity to go out there, last All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium history,” Sheets said. “I know one thing, it’s going to be glowing as I pull up.

“I’m going to definitely do a sightseeing tour today, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

Both managers announced their lineups Monday in the same Manhattan banquet room where the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball was released seven months before.

Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will bat leadoff for the AL, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton, New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Francona kept more than numbers in mind when putting together his batting order.

“To me, Derek Jeter deserves to hit second in a lineup like this, especially in this place,” he said.

Papi’s power

Francona tried not to look when David Ortiz stepped into the batting cage for some impromptu practice before the Home Run Derby, turning his back to deal with a throng of reporters.

He missed quite a show.

The injured designated hitter hit four straight over Yankee Stadium’s short right-field wall, then stepped out of the batter’s box to let somebody else have a turn. When he stepped back to the plate moments later, Ortiz sent four more out of the park before hitting one that dropped about three feet short of the 408-foot sign in center.

Ortiz has been on the disabled list since May 31 with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. He was voted into the American League starting lineup for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game but was replaced by Bradley.

Bonds’ return unlikely

Don’t expect to see Barry Bonds showing up in a pennant race.

Bonds has not received a single offer, agent Jeff Borris said. He dismissed recent reports of interest from Arizona, the New York Mets and Boston.

“I’m an optimistic guy by nature, and I’ve told Barry that the prospects look bleak,” Borris said.

Bonds, who turns 44 in two weeks, led the majors last season with a .480 on-base percentage. He finished the year with 762 career home runs and became a free agent when the San Francisco Giants did not bring him back.

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