La Russa unveils NL lineup, strategy
Cardinals skipper intent on winning with unusual order
DETROIT -- Tony La Russa, at the helm of the National League's All-Star team this week, unveiled few surprises on Monday afternoon when he announced his starting pitcher and starting lineup.
Right-hander Chris Carpenter, who has won 28 games for La Russa's Cardinals over the past year and a half, will take the ball as the NL's starter. Albert Pujols, who has made a pretty good living in recent years as the No. 3 hitter for the Redbirds, will bat third on Tuesday night and serve as the designated hitter.
And least surprising of all: La Russa will be managing to win.
"This is not a show," La Russa said. "It's not an exhibition. We keep score."
The skipper elicited a few murmurs when he announced his leadoff hitter, Phillies slugger Bobby Abreu. David Eckstein, the only NL All-Star starter who serves as his team's regular leadoff man, will bat ninth -- the "second leadoff man" sometimes used by American League teams. La Russa considered one other candidate -- Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran -- but will bat Beltran second.
"I like that Bo Jackson type," La Russa said. "I like that damage up there in the first inning.
"When you have talent like this on a squad, I don't think you can write a bad lineup. You can scramble them up, but I like everything that Bobby does offensively. He has a good strike zone. He runs the bases well. He hits rights, he hits lefts. We tried to get some damage early."
That's the La Russa fans know, always conscious of every edge. He's famous for playing matchups with his bench and his bullpen, but the All-Star Game is a bit of a different animal.
"When you talk about strategy, very often during the season you're talking about players and pitchers who have some strengths and probably have some weaknesses," he said. "So you want to play to one or avoid the other. If you've got All-Stars, you're talking about strength against strength.
"Every pitcher who goes out there is strong and doesn't have a whole lot that he can't do. Same thing for hitters. So it's just basically matching strengths. Every hitter can hit right- and left-handers. Every pitcher can get a right- and a left-handed hitter out. So I don't think that's a big strategy."
So instead he'll look at other factors in trotting out pitchers. Dontrelle Willis, who was considered as a potential starter, will likely pitch in the middle innings -- when his regular catcher, Paul Lo Duca, is expected to come in for Mike Piazza. Carpenter, meanwhile, controls the running game extremely well -- helping to make up for Piazza's subpar arm.
Carpenter, however, might not see more than one inning. One tactic La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan have pondered is to give nine different pitchers one inning each.
"I don't know how unconventional it is," La Russa said. "It's something that we've done before. I pulled out the [lineup] cards from the games we had before, and there was one game where we pitched three guys two innings, and we had four guys from a 10-man staff left. But there was one where we had one guy left because everybody pitched basically one inning, and one guy pitched two."
In other words, stay tuned.
La Russa has an idea of what he'll do, but he's not giving it all away now. And he'll do anything and everything within reason to deliver a victory.
His closer in St. Louis, Jason Isringhausen, agreed: "People that know him know how intense he is. The guys that don't know him will find it out. "
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.