Pujols to hit cleanup for NL All-Stars
Slugger starting DH; Ludwick relishing first Midsummer Classic
NEW YORK -- Though he fell just short in both fan and player voting for the 2008 All-Star Game, Albert Pujols has the full backing of someone even more important: the man who makes out the National League lineup card.
Clint Hurdle, manager of the Colorado Rockies and the NL All-Star team, made that abundantly clear when he announced his lineup on Monday. Pujols will not only start for the NL stars as the designated hitter, he'll hit cleanup.
It's a welcome assignment for Pujols, who did not get into the 2007 game thanks to a controversial decision by his own manager, Tony La Russa. Pujols will be the DH for the second time in an All-Star Game. He had the same job in 2005 at Comerica Park in Detroit. La Russa was the NL manager for the game as well.
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to be in the lineup," Pujols said on Monday afternoon. "I thank Clint Hurdle for putting me in there. We have a pretty good team. I [usually] hit third, but it doesn't matter. I could hit eighth. Just to be in the lineup, I'm pretty excited."
His Cardinals teammate, Ryan Ludwick, was pretty excited just to be part of the extravaganza. A day after celebrating his 30th birthday, the first-time All-Star sported a broad grin throughout his media session.
Ludwick said he's leaning on Pujols, a seven-time All-Star and now a five-time member of the starting lineup, to guide him through the experience.
"I flew up here with him," Ludwick said. "I'm flying back [with him]. I'm pretty much holding his hand around this whole deal. He's a good guy to follow. He's been here more than a few times."
Ludwick, who is on his way to his first full season in the Major Leagues, is enjoying an extremely memorable 2008. His wife is pregnant with the couple's first child, and now he's an All-Star.
"It's been a good year thus far," Ludwick said. "I'm going to try to take everything in while I'm here. I know [that's] almost going to be impossible, but I'm going to try to enjoy it and have fun. Whether I get in there or not, I'm going to enjoy New York and enjoy Yankee Stadium."
Pujols was the third first baseman to make the team. Fans voted in Lance Berkman of the Astros, and players chose Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres as the first backup. But Hurdle, who has said he could scarcely envision an NL All-Star team without Pujols, named the 2005 MVP to the roster, and then to his lineup.
"I kind of like Albert hitting fourth," Hurdle said. "It's the best lineup that I've ever written down on paper, so we'll see where it takes us."
The choice was an honor for Pujols, especially in light of last season's disappointment.
"He's got a lot of guys, a lot of All-Stars here that he could choose to hit fourth, and he chose me," Pujols said. "I can't wait to see him so I can thank him for the opportunity to be in the lineup and for choosing me to be in this All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.