- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tyler Clippard was as surprised as anyone when heard that he would represent the Nationals at the All-Star Game in Arizona on July 12.

“It was pretty shocking,” he said. “Pretty awesome.”

Clippard, who was named to the team by Giants manager Bruce Bochy, is the only Washington player on the NL roster at this time. But first baseman Michael Morse has a chance to make the team as one of five candidates in the “Final Vote.” Fans will decide which player fills each league’s final roster spot by voting on MLB.com.

A dominant force out of the Nationals’ bullpen this year, Clippard has posted a 1.96 ERA in 37 appearances. Still, his All-Star selection is a rare one for a middle reliever.

“There are so many guys, especially in the National League - starters, great closers,” he said. “I knew I’d been pitching well, but usually those are the guys that get the nod as far as the All-Star team is concerned. I knew I had maybe an outside shot, but I didn’t really take it seriously. That’s probably a good thing, not really thinking about it too much.

“But now that it’s here, now that it’s actually happening, it’s pretty awesome.”

The All-Star selection is Clippard’s first in the major leagues and the second of his career. He was named to the 2005 All-Star Game with Class A Tampa, but he didn’t play because he was sent to the Yankees’ low-A to pitch a playoff-clinching game, which he lost.

For the 26-year-old reliever, the opportunity to meet his All-Star teammates is one of the most exciting aspects of his upcoming trip to Arizona.

“I think that’s kind of a big part of the All-Star thing for me, the experience, is just to meet the other guys around the league, maybe get to pitch in the game,” Clippard said. “All the extracurricular stuff that goes with it I think is going to be fantastic.”

Asked about the possibility of pitching against elite American League hitters in the eighth inning of a close game, Clippard said he would treat the situation as he does in every other game.

“It would be great,” he said. “That’s what we play this game to do. Every night I want to be in the situation, so it wouldn’t be any different in the All-Star Game. That would be a really cool thing.”

Morse is hitting .299 with 15 home runs for the Nationals this season. He is on the ballot with the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier, the Rockies’ Todd Helton, the Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy and the Phillies’ Shane Victorino for the final slot on the NL team. Balloting lasts until 4 p.m. Thursday.

“Vote often, vote a lot,” Morse said. “I’m excited. I want to get there. I want to play in the All-Star Game.”

Although he did not play in Sunday’s game, Morse said he feels fine after taking a fastball to the arm in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He is excited about his chance to make the NL roster.

“I think it’s great,” Morse said. “You always set your goals to play your best and be an All-Star. I’m excited. It’s a great feeling and a great opportunity.”

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