Phillies stick together in St. Louis for All-Star Game

Jayson Werth participates in All-Star batting practice.
Jayson Werth participates in All-Star batting practice.
Posted: July 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS - Here's how it usually goes: A Phillies player makes the All-Star team. Maybe more than one if they're lucky. When the last game before the break ends, the player or players find their way to whatever city the game is being played in that year.

Here's how it was this year: After Sunday's win over the Pirates, a large traveling party embarked for St. Louis on a chartered flight. Manager Charlie Manuel and his coaching staff. Five players: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth. A full front-office entourage, headed by club president Dave Montgomery. Sponsors. In all, some 60 people made the trip.

For Howard, it's a homecoming. He grew up just outside the city. For Utley, it's his fourth straight start. For Ibanez, it's his first All-Star appearance at age 37. Victorino and Werth are also newcomers.

Here's a look at how each Phillies player viewed the hoopla and what he can expect when the 80th edition of the Midsummer Classic is played tonight:

Ibanez: He'll start in leftfield and bat fifth but, because he is just off the disabled list with a strained groin, isn't likely to get more than one plate appearance.

"He's swinging the bat good," Manuel said. "The timing is still there. I'll watch him. He's felt pretty good the last couple days, but if I can get him off his feet pretty quickly, I'll probably do that."

Ibanez said he was so focused on his rehab and trying to get back into the lineup over the last few weeks that he hadn't really had much time to think about the All-Star Game.

"It's starting to hit me now," he said yesterday. "Now that it's here, I'm really grateful [to have recovered in time to play]. It's definitely a blessing. I'm humbled. It's awesome. I'm not going to the Hall of Fame. But making an All-Star team and winning a world championship, those are forever."

Ibanez joked that he's leaning on Utley to show him the way. "I follow Chase around," he kidded. "I ask him, 'What are we doing now? What time is this? What are we wearing?' We're all wearing Chase out."

Utley: He'll bat second and said he's happy to give any advice he can and that he's thrilled to have so many teammates around this trip.

"The more Phillies here, the better," he said. "It's good to see. I think it means we're going in the right direction."

Utley said he was especially happy for Ibanez, Victorino and Werth. "To experience your first All-Star Game, there's nothing like it," he said.

Victorino: The Phillies' third starter will bat seventh. Manuel picked him to start in place of the injured Carlos Beltran.

"We have seven outfielders on our team," Manuel explained. "I saw [Colorado's Brad] Hawpe play centerfield but since he's had an injury he's been playing all rightfield. I wanted a guy that had played centerfield and was a true centerfielder to put out there. That's how I made my decision."

Victorino said he's excited to hear his name announced as one of the starters. He added that, while stolen bases aren't often utilized in All-Star Games, he wouldn't be opposed to trying to swipe a bag or two, especially since Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes is on hand to help break down the opposing hitters.

"Whatever it takes to win," he said. "I'm not going to run just to run. But if a guy is slow to the plate, there's a pretty good chance I'm going to try it."

Werth: It's not out of the question that he could follow Victorino in center and finish the game, since he has as much centerfield experience as any of Manuel's other options.

While he grew up in Springfield, Ill., he doesn't consider this a homecoming. "Most people in Springfield were either Cardinals or Cubs fans. I was neither," he said. Instead, he rooted for the Angels because that's the team his uncle, Dick Schofield, played for.

Werth has always thought he could be a productive player in the big leagues if given a chance to play every day, and Manuel's decision to add him to the roster seems to affirm that belief.

"I saw the interview [Manuel] gave where he said the reason he chose me was because I was his guy. He pretty much told me the same thing," Werth said. "When you've been through everything I've been through and taken the road I've taken, for your manager to look you in the eye and say, 'You're my guy,' that really hits home."

Howard: He's one of four first basemen on the NL roster, but you can be sure Manuel will get him into the game.

He spent much of his media availability discussing returning to his hometown as an All-Star, reminiscing about how he and his brother were known around school as "the kids who cut the grass" because their father insisted that they mow the steep hill in front of their house. *

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