Being second choice to Key is no slight to Angels' Langston Next starts were deciding factors American League notebook


It was no secret that he was the second choice to start the 64th All-Star Game for the American League, but California Angels pitcher Mark Langston took no offense.

"I realize that Jimmy Key didn't get to start this game," said Langston, who will match up against Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Terry Mulholland tonight at Camden Yards. "It's unfortunate that he isn't starting, because I think he is the most deserving pitcher. He has had a phenomenal first half."

Langston hasn't had a bad half himself. He is 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA, and he is one of the reasons that the Angels have exceeded all preseason expectations. But Key clearly has been the best pitcher in the American League so far.

The New York Yankees left-hander is 11-2 and leads the league with a 2.31 ERA. Key also leads the league in winning percentage (.846) and ranks among the league leaders in several other categories.

The only reason he isn't starting is because Yankees manager Buck Showalter asked All-Star manager Cito Gaston not to use him for more than one inning. Gaston agreed "out of respect for Buck."

"The Yankees are in a pennant race -- as are the Angels -- but Key is due to pitch on the 16th and Mark is not due until next Saturday or Sunday."

Langston doesn't mind playing second fiddle. He has been one of the top left-handers in baseball since he broke into the league with the Seattle Mariners in 1984. This will be his fourth All-Star appearance and first starting assignment.

"It's a dream come true," he said. "To be named the starting pitcher is every little kid's dream."

Gaston on criticism

Gaston has weathered a week of criticism for leaving several deserving players off the team.

"I'm used to it," he said. "I've been getting criticized for years, especially in Toronto."

Blue Jays coach injured

The upbeat tenor of the All-Star festivities was dampened yesterday when it was learned that Blue Jays third-base coach ** Rich Hacker had been injured badly in an automobile accident in Missouri Sunday night.

Police say Hacker was involved in a head-on collision with a car that was drag racing. He is listed in serious but stable condition in a St. Louis hospital.

Why not Tettleton?

Gaston again tried to explain why he chose Blue Jays designated hitter Paul Molitor over American League home run leader Mickey Tettleton.

"Because Tettleton is a catcher and Molitor is a designated hitter and first baseman," Gaston said.

In reality, Tettleton may have missed out because he didn't play behind the plate enough. He played more games in the outfield and first base than behind the plate.

Molitor has had a strong half. He's hitting .307 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI. Tettleton has not hit for a high average, but he has 24 home runs and ranks second in the league with 73 RBI.

Pre-game festivities

The first pitch ceremony tonight will feature three baseball greats. Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline, Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson and Baltimore Elite Giants star Leon Day all will throw out ceremonial pitches.

Actor James Earl Jones will recite "The Star-Spangled Banner" with backup from the Morgan State University Choir. Geddy Lee, lead singer of the Canadian rock band Rush, will perform "O, Canada."

Molitor to tie record

When Molitor starts tonight's game as the designated hitter, he'll become the second player in history to be in the All-Star lineup at five different positions. Molitor started the 1988 game at second base and has played first base, third base and center field as a reserve in four other All-Star appearances. The only other player to play that many positions was Pete Rose, who played first base, second base, third base, left field and right field during 16 All-Star appearances.

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