- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PITTSBURGH — Kenny Rogers has gone from baseball’s No. 1 pariah to All-Star Game starter, all in the span of 12 months.

Rogers, the veteran left-hander who found trouble a year ago after shoving a television cameraman, yesterday was named the starting pitcher for tonight’s game by American League manager Ozzie Guillen.

Rogers, 41, doesn’t have the best numbers among his pitching counterparts on the AL roster, but he’s the freshest of the bunch. Roy Halladay, Johan Santana and Jose Contreras all pitched Sunday, limiting their availability.

So Guillen tabbed Rogers, who is 11-3 with a 3.85 ERA in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.

“He’s one of the guys that can give me more than one inning, and that’s the reason why I did it,” Guillen said. “But mostly I think he’s the best pitcher right now in the American League. That’s why he’s there.”

Last season, Rogers, then pitching for the Texas Rangers, was the subject of criticism when he was named as a reserve to the AL team during the middle of his cameraman controversy. He was charged with a misdemeanor for his actions and was resoundingly booed when he was introduced before the All-Star Game in Detroit.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard,” Rogers said. “I think I grew up through that a little bit and learned from it and tried to make myself a little better. This year, I’m hoping for a little bit more enjoyable time.”

Rogers will be opposed by another surprise starter: Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny, who is 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA and hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, will pitch for the National League.

Whither Manny?

Manny Ramirez’s absence yesterday brought plenty of questions.

The Boston Red Sox slugger begged out of this week’s festivities, citing a sore right knee, yet somehow managed to play all 19 innings of Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

“I tip my hat because I think he was 0-for-6,” said Guillen, who was in the opposing dugout for the marathon ballgame.

Guillen said he respected Ramirez’s decision not to play, but not everyone shared his opinion.

“Every guy is different, but for myself, this is the fans’ game,” White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. “If they voted you in, I think you have an obligation to go.”

Liriano, Eckstein in

Both squads made a couple of last-minute roster changes because of injuries.

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who was supposed to start for the NL, is in town but won’t play after cutting his left pinky finger sliding headfirst into first base Friday. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Edgar Renteria of the Atlanta Braves and on the bench by David Eckstein of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Twins rookie left-hander Francisco Liriano is coming to Pittsburgh after all. Liriano was named as a replacement to the AL’s pitching staff for Contreras, who threw six innings Sunday and wouldn’t have been available to pitch in the game.

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