Seven years in the minor leagues taught John Burkett not to take anything for granted in baseball.
"I never expected to make the All-Star team. I never expected to start," the San Francisco Giants pitcher said last night. "I'd like to start, and I thought I had a pretty good chance at starting. But Terry Mulholland is a great pitcher. I wished him luck, and I hope we win."
Burkett got into the game in the fifth, but didn't last the inning. He gave up four hits and three runs as the American League opened a 5-2 lead.
Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox chose the Philadelphia Phillies' Mulholland (9-6, 2.72 ERA) to start over Burkett (13-3, 3.28) because he had more rest and wasn't scheduled to pitch again until the weekend.
tTC Burkett, 28, spent five years in the Giants' farm system before getting a brief call-up in 1987. He didn't return until 1990. Since then, he has gone 52-30 for the Giants. His 13 wins are the most by a Giants pitcher at the All-Star break in 20 years.
"I've always felt I could have a big season if I was able to make 33 to 36 starts a year," he said. "I'm more consistent this year. Being on the team I'm on is a big help. You don't go 13-3 in 19 starts just on your pitching. You've got to have the guys play well behind you."
This was Burkett's first All-Star Game, and he felt jittery in the NL clubhouse Monday.
"I'm kind of a quiet guy," he said. "I loosened up a little today. Yesterday I was afraid to talk to anybody."
That's Igor to you
San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn, who has been in nine All-Star Games, takes a keen interest in catching a glimpse of American League stars he hasn't seen in person.
In 1989, he was awed by the sight of Bo Jackson.
"He's huge," Gwynn said. "I would call him 'Sir,' as big as he is."
Gwynn also had this warning for the AL. He said this isn't the best NL All-Star team he has played on, but that it probably is "as far as young talent. . . . I'm 33, and I'm one of the older guys in here."
Pitcher Andy Benes said the Padres have indicated to him that he's one of the players they want to rebuild with once their housecleaning is finished.
"In so many words, they said they don't want to move me," Benes said. "But they have some tough decisions to make. If someone offered the right deal, they'd have to consider it."
Benes was the first player taken in the 1988 draft, one year before Ben McDonald was the first choice by the Orioles. Both players had to learn how to pitch in the big leagues.
"My first two or three years were learning what I should be doing," Benes said. "Ben and I had to learn at a tough level."
Benes, 9-6 with a league-leading 2.57 ERA, said he finally felt comfortable last August.
"It was more mental than physical," he said. "I didn't have the right perspective when I was out there. Now I have the right perspective and I'm not distracted."
Mike Piazza, the fourth rookie catcher to be named to the NL All-Star team, says he isn't swept away by his sudden success with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I'm proud of the numbers I put up in the first half, but that's what keeps my feet on the ground -- it's only a half," Piazza said. "And half a season doesn't make a career. Two or three good years don't make a career, either.
"I want to be one of the best catchers in the game in five or six years. If big numbers help me do it, fine. If it means being a better defensive catcher and contribute what I can to the offense, that's fine, too."
Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants became the fifth player to collect two doubles in an All-Star Game. The last to double twice was Ernie Banks in 1959. . . . Fans booed Bonds' snap catch of Paul Molitor's deep fly ball in the third inning. . . . Braves pitcher John Smoltz wild-pitched two runs home in sixth, tying All-Star game and inning records. . . . Sheffield became the first player from a first-year expansion team to homer in an All-Star Game.