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All-Star notes: La Russa wants larger roster

SAN FRANCISCO – Their dugouts are stocked with baseball's best players, yet All-Star Game managers Jim Leyland of the American League and Tony La Russa of the National League couldn't help but pine for a few players who aren't here.

"I gave a lot of thought to Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio deserving to be here, and I was going to push for it," Leyland said. "Then I remembered Sammy Sosa hitting his 600th, and I thought, 'Where do you draw the line?' "

In the days leading up to the All-Star break, Biggio bagged his 3,000th hit, Thomas hit his 500th home run and Sosa became the fifth player to reach 600.

All of which prompted La Russa to suggest that MLB should add to the 32-man rosters.

"Baseball could add a 'distinguished career' spot because that way no other deserving player would lose his spot," he said.

Carlos Beltran, the NL's starting center fielder does not pretend to be a mathematician, but he is thoroughly engrossed by the numbers accumulated by the men who will flank him in the starting outfield. Barry Bonds (751 career home runs) will man left field while Ken Griffey Jr. (586) gets the nod in right.

"That's what, 1,337 home runs?" Beltran said. "It's a dream come true to be on the same field with these guys. I looked up to them when I was in high school. They were my favorite players."

Beltran, a five-tool player earning $13.5 million a season, is a standout in his own right, yet he seemed as star-struck as any fan. His 219 homers puts the NL outfield total at 1,556.

"I'm going to enjoy the moment and have fun," Beltran said.

Dan Haren of the Oakland Athletics is the starting pitcher for the American League, but it was La Russa – not Leyland – who seemed like a charter member of the Haren Fan Club.

Haren was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 2001 draft out of Pepperdine and made the big league team within two years. But he was sent to the Athletics in the trade that brought injury-plagued left-hander Mark Mulder.

In 2½ years with Oakland, Haren has won 38 games, including a 10-3 record with an AL-best 2.30 ERA this year.

"(Cardinals pitching coach) Dave Duncan and I have been together a long time and been friends for a long time and it's probably the closest we've ever come to having a disruptive relationship, because he was adamant that Dan be a part of St. Louis' future," La Russa said.

For his part, Leyland said Haren was starting primarily because of Oakland's proximity to San Francisco.

"I felt Danny's numbers should give him the right to start this game," he said. "And I would be lying if I said it wasn't a nice extra touch since he pitches right across the Bay. Truthfully, if this game was in Cleveland, it would probably be (C.C) Sabathia, and if it was in Detroit, it would be (Justin) Verlander."

Alex Rodriguez doesn't have many memories of San Francisco, but a recent one is special.

"When we were here to play the Giants (in late June), Willie Mays took off his jersey and gave it to (manager) Joe Torre to give to me," he said. "It meant so much, I cried.

"I tried to put it on a wall in our master bedroom, but my wife said no. So it's in my office."