Jays' Molitor starts over at the top


You won't find his name on the All-Star Game ballot, but you will have no trouble locating it among the American League's top 10 hitters.

He may not be one of the most recognizable players in baseball, but he is one of the most respected.

In what should be the twilight of his career, Paul Molitor isn't slowing down, either, he's just getting better. At 36, after 15 productive seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, Molitor started over this year with the Toronto Blue Jays.

New team. Different country. Same production.

Molitor is hitting .324 with nine homers and 51 RBI. He ranked fourth in the AL in hitting, second in hits with 100.

Have no doubt, when the All-Star Game rolls into Camden Yards on July 13, Molitor will be back here as the American League DH -- even if he's not convinced of that.

"I'm not sure that's true," he said, citing the annual roster problems that squeeze out deserving players.

"That's because of the rule that there must be players from each team, and the fact we'll have three starters in [John] Olerud, [Roberto] Alomar and [Joe] Carter. And I think Devon White is very worthy to be there because he's an everyday player. He's the best outfielder in our league, and he's put together a great offensive season.

"I'd rather see him get selected over me if it was one of the two. . . . I've had good offense the first half, but that's basically all I do. Cito's got some tough choices to make. Plus Pat Hentgen has 10 wins and Duane Ward has 21 saves."

Because Molitor was not listed on the All-Star ballot, he has not amassed enough write-in votes to rank at any position. But because the game is in an American League park this year, he almost certainly will find a spot on Cito Gaston's AL squad as the designated hitter.

In yesterday's count, there were no changes among AL leaders.

Gaston, the Blue Jays manager, stopped short of saying Molitor would be named to the team -- "I don't want to announce anything yet" -- but his admiration was clear.

"I used to watch him on the other side beat us to death," Gaston said. "It's a pleasure to watch him on this side. He plays hard. He plays hurt. He knows how to play."

Molitor leads all AL designated hitters in hits (78), runs (58) and walks (39). He's also first in the league in multi-hit games with 33, ZTC and is hitting .409 with runners in scoring position.

Typically, he shared the credit.

"Of all the positions in baseball that are enviable positions to hit in," he said, "I think hitting third in this lineup has to be one of the top."

Molitor hits behind White and Alomar, and ahead of Carter and Olerud. It might be the most potent five-man tag team in baseball.

"It's been a great opportunity to be sandwiched between those guys," he said. "Although there was speculation in spring training that this offense would be down in comparison to last year's world championship team, we've been able to maintain an outstanding pace."

Molitor also says this is a better overall Toronto team than the AL champion Brewers of 1982.

"I don't think this club compares in sheer power to that team," Molitor said. "But in terms of power, speed and hitting for average, it's above and beyond that club. The pitching is better here. The defense is better."

At a point when his career should be winding down, Molitor instead is rejuvenated. And probably headed back to Camden Yards.

"I would love to go," he said. "I think Camden Yards and the atmosphere around here during those couple of days will be incredible. This has turned into one of my favorite parks in the league, and I think a lot of players feel the same way."


Results through Monday for the starting American League team for the 64th All-Star Game, to be played July 13 at Camden Yards:


1, Ivan Rodriguez, Texas, 370,335. 2, Sandy Alomar, Cleveland, 325,253. 3, Mickey Tettleton, Detroit, 303,041. 4, Pat Borders, Toronto, 278,462. 5, Brian Harper, Minnesota, 234,593. 6, Tony Pena, Boston, 180,944. 7, Terry Steinbach, Oakland, 177,713. 8, Chris Hoiles, Orioles, 93,668.


1, John Olerud, Toronto, 394,975. 2, Mark McGwire, Oakland, 345,640. 3, Cecil Fielder, Detroit, 311,241. 4, Frank Thomas, Chicago, 278,804. 5, J. T. Snow, California, 206,628. 6, Kent Hrbek, Minnesota, 194,344. 7, Don Mattingly, New York, 172,143. 8, Rafael Palmeiro, Texas, 132,415.


1, Roberto Alomar, Toronto, 748,196. 2, Carlos Baerga, Cleveland, 290,038. 3, Chuck Knoblauch, Minnesota, 253,829. 4, Bill Ripken, Texas, 214,678. 5, Steve Sax, Chicago, 134,547. 6, Lou Whitaker, Detroit, 131,712. 7, Jose Lind, Kansas City, 113,225. 8, Rich Amaral, Seattle, 91,021.


1, Cal Ripken, Orioles, 901,525. 2, Travis Fryman, Detroit, 364,967. 3, Juan Bell, Milwaukee, 197,209. 4, Spike Owen, New York, 141,785. 5, Tony Fernandez, Toronto, 133,687. 6, Ozzie Guillen, Chicago, 123,852. 7, Dick Schofield, Toronto, 119,766. 8, Greg Gagne, Kansas City, 101,652.


1, Wade Boggs, New York, 548,825. 2, Robin Ventura, Chicago, 363,563. 3, Dean Palmer, Texas, 325,348. 4, Ed Sprague, Toronto, 187,434. 5, Edgar Martinez, Seattle, 178,855. 6, Terry Jorgensen, Minnesota, 139,785. 7, Kevin Seitzer, Oakland, 104,677. 8, Leo Gomez, Orioles, 86,640.


1, Ken Griffey, Seattle, 977,417. 2, Kirby Puckett, Minnesota, 673,496. 3, Joe Carter, Toronto, 486,270. 4, Jose Canseco, Texas, 399,901. 5, Juan Gonzalez, Texas, 361,022. 6, Dave Winfield, Minnesota, 342,305. 7, Albert Belle, Cleveland, 331,712. 8, Rickey Henderson, Oakland, 247,853. 9, Devon White, Toronto, 226,828. 10, Kirk Gibson, Detroit, 203,448. 11, Ruben Sierra, Oakland, 149,848. 12, Brady Anderson, Orioles, 139,355. 13, Andre Dawson, Boston, 134,302. 14, Shane Mack, Minnesota, 126,319. 15, Rob Deer, Detroit, 119,222. 16, Kenny Lofton, Cleveland, 113,019.

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