The All-Star game represents something of a homecoming for the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier and the Angels’ Howie Kendrick.
Ethier grew up in Phoenix and graduated from St. Mary’s High, about four blocks from Chase Field. Kendrick makes his off-season home in Arizona, where much of his wife’s family lives.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Ethier, who was chosen to the National League team as a late replacement for the Philadelphia Phillies Shane Victorino. “I made my major league debut here. And now the first All-Star game — the only All-Star game that’s ever been here in Arizona — I happen to be in the major leagues and ... playing good enough to be in it.”
Ethier, who can be moody at times, never stopped grinning during the NL’s 50-minute session with the media Monday.
“I smile a lot when I’m in my backyard playing whiffle ball with my kids. This is my backyard,” he said.
“It’s awesome to be here and be a part of this.”
Kendrick, voted to the American League team by his peers, said former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon advised him to take time to enjoy the event.
“He said, ‘Make sure you take a lot of pictures,’” Kendrick said. “It’s definitely something that I get to enjoy with a lot of people that I love. And I’m happy that they’re going to be able to experience it with me.”
Kemp seeing stars
Matt Kemp said he learned he would bat third for the NL when “somebody tweeted me about it.”
It’s a new world for the Dodgers center fielder, and not just with regard to technology. One year after he drove the coaches and fans batty with erratic play that overshadowed his prodigious talents, Kemp just might be the best player in the league.
NL All-Star Manager Bruce Bochy put Kemp in the No. 3 spot, generally reserved for the most dynamic player in the lineup. The likes of Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki and Lance Berkman will bat behind Kemp.
“He’s a guy with speed, power, a guy that can beat you with a base hit or a long ball,” said Bochy, who manages the San Francisco Giants.
“He’s so dangerous. The pitchers don’t want to walk him and yet they don’t want this guy to beat them with the long ball.”
Kemp was a bit, well, starry-eyed about it.
“This is all happening so fast,” Kemp said. “I’m really excited. It didn’t hit me until this morning, when I was having breakfast with all the guys.
“I’m just in awe right now.”
On Sunday, Kemp said, his father sent along a picture of “the first baseball field I played at,” the Little League diamond in Midwest City, Okla.
“It just hit me,” Kemp said. “It reflected where I was and how far I’ve come.”
Bell sounds off
The San Diego Padres are in last place in the NL West and their All-Star closer, Heath Bell, is eligible for free agency after the season.
Little surprise then that Bell is resigned to a trade in the coming weeks.
“Do I want that to happen? No,” he said. “Is it a reality? Yes, and I’m fine with it.”
Bell said he would give his all to the Padres until then, but he followed with a pretty good listing of his potential suitors.
“When they tell me I’m going to Philly, St. Louis, Texas, the Yankees, the Angels — wherever it is — I’ll give my all to them,” Bell said.
Bell said he intends to market himself only as a closer in free agency but would not object if a team traded for him to pitch the seventh or eighth inning for the rest of this season.
“If they ask me to set up the last two months of the season, I’ll do it,” he said.
With Mariano Rivera joining New York Yankees teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in being taken off the roster, AL Manager Ron Washington said he would use Detroit Tigers right-hander Jose Valverde as his closer. … Bochy said he would probably close with his own ace, Brian Wilson, although the Atlanta Braves’ Craig Kimbrel could be used if Wilson doesn’t feel right. … Bochy is apparently not sold on Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Joel Hanrahan, who is 26 for 26 in save chances.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.