Norris, Lehr get All-Star starting nods

Triple-A's elite to square off Wednesday night in Portland

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Austin Jackson will be at the top of the IL lineup. (Dylan Higgins/Portland Beavers)

By Jared Ravich / | July 14, 2009 10:19 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The lineups are set for the 2009 Triple-A All-Star Game and, in a strange way, it's a homecoming of sorts for some.

Well, not for Pacific Coast League skipper Randy Ready, who as manager of the Portland Beavers never had to leave PGE Park. And maybe not for International League and Louisville Bats manager Rick Sweet, who lives just across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash.

But PCL starting pitcher Bud Norris of the Round Rock Express pitched in Oregon before he became a professional hurler.

"I've never played in this park," the right-hander said. "But I actually played a summer in the Portland area back in 2005 and I've seen the park as a fan. Tommy Hanson [of the Atlanta Braves] and myself, we put on a Nike summer team out here in one of our junior summers in college. We had a lot of fun and saw this park from the stands. Being out on that mound will be a great honor."

Starting for the IL will be Louisville's Justin Lehr, who began his pro career in 1999 with Southern Oregon of the Northwest League and is a stellar 11-3 with a 3.51 ERA this season. The right-hander started this game for the PCL in 2007 and would like the opening inning to go a little quicker this time.

"Good experience, bad inning," recalled Lehr, who allowed four earned runs on three hits and a walk two years ago. "It was a great experience and it's nice to be picked again. I'll just go up there and throw my pitches. That's about all I can really control. Should be fun.

"It's kind of a no-pressure situation. You get some recognition out there, throw your pitches and let people see 'em. Hopefully, make it quick."

Norris (3-8, 2.64, 107 strikeouts) also is looking for a quick appearance Wednesday.

"I'm going to go out there and give a fastball like any other start. Let 'em rip early," he said. "I'm only going one or two innings. Should be quick and good ones. Going to let it all out."

Quickness also will factor into the game, with both lineups featuring speedsters at the top. For the PCL, Colorado Springs second baseman Eric Young Jr. will lead things off, fresh off a trip to the All-Star Futures Game.

"When they told me that I made the Futures Game and that I made the Triple-A All-Star Game, they asked me if I just wanted to do one or the other," said Young, who leads all of Triple-A with 48 stolen bases. "I said, 'No, I'm going to do both.'

"You don't want to take for granted being an All-Star. You never know how many times you're going to be able to play in an All-Star Game, how many times you're going to be recognized as an All-Star. You want to take advantage every time you can."

Right behind Young, batting second, will be Venezuelan sensation Alcides Escobar, who also played in the Futures Game. The Nashville Sounds shortstop ranks third in the PCL with 30 steals. Batting third is Colorado Springs designated hitter Matt Murton, who comes into the game with a .374 average and .430 on-base percentage.

Leading off for the IL is Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees center fielder Austin Jackson, who's batting .324. He doesn't exactly model himself after any other player but looks to an outfielder in his own organization for guidance.

"Reggie Jackson. He comes to a lot of the games. He calls me and I call him, text each other," Austin Jackson explained. "He's definitely helped me out a lot the last couple of years. The mental part of baseball. He was pretty confident in his game, and that kind of gives me confidence to go out there and do the same."

Tied for the IL lead with 33 steals is Louisville's Drew Stubbs, who'll be playing right field and batting second.

Then, it's time for the power. Las Vegas 51s first baseman Randy Ruiz and Salt Lake Bees center fielder Terry Evans are penciled in fourth and fifth in Ready's lineup. Ruiz is tied for fourth in the PCL -- with Nashville's Brendan Katin -- with 19 homers, while Evans is right behind, tied with four others with 17.

The power in the IL lineup will be provided by the league's top two home run hitters, Lehigh Valley IronPigs designated hitter Andy Tracy (15) and Yankees left fielder Shelley Duncan (21). Duncan was the runner-up to Portland's Chad Huffman in Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby.

Ready knew he had some tough decisions to make at the bottom of the lineup, with players who aren't used to be waiting for their turns.

"You gotta like that kind of lineup. It's unfortunate we don't have this lineup to see what these kids can do together for five months," he said. "Everybody's getting in the game. I mean, I've got the coaches wanting to get in there. No, we're way past that, but opportunities for the players to get in there? Everybody's getting in the game one way or another. Everyone gets in and gets out and everybody's healthy as they get moving on with the rest of their seasons."

Sweet has a similar outlook.

"Get everybody in ... and win," he said. "One thing I just told my players, you don't need any pep talks or speeches or anything like that. These guys are professionals, but they are very prideful.

"I'm not the least bit worried about how hard they're going to play. Believe me, they're going to do everything they can to win. Nobody likes to lose and these guys are going to want to win."

Triple-A All-Star lineups

Pacific Coast League

1. Eric Young Jr. (Rockies), 2B
2. Alcides Escobar (Brewers), SS
3. Matt Murton (Rockies), DH
4. Randy Ruiz (Blue Jays), 1B
5. Terry Evans (Angels), CF
6. Matt Miller (Rockies), LF
7. Chris Robinson (Cubs), C
8. Brendan Katin (Brewers), RF
9. Esteban German (Rangers), 3B
Bud Norris (Astros), P

International League

1. Austin Jackson (Yankees), CF
2. Drew Stubbs (Reds), RF
3. Andy Tracy (Phillies), DH
4. Shelley Duncan (Yankees), LF
5. Barbaro Canizares (Braves), 1B
6. Mike Cervenak (Phillies), 3B
7. Seth Bynum (Nationals), 2B
8. Erik Kratz (Pirates), C
9. Reid Brignac (Rays), SS
Justin Lehr (Reds), P

Jared Ravich is a Senior Technical Producer for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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