NOTEBOOK All-Star Game



Gagne wants to face Blalock again: Eric Gagne wasn't very worked up about pitching last year in the All-Star game. But he could be quite excited tonight if he gets another chance to face Hank Blalock. Until his record-shattering streak of consecutive saves ended last week, Gagne's most recent flawed performance came last July in Chicago, when Blalock hit a two-run homer that gave the American League a 7-6 victory. "Of course I want another shot at him," said Gagne, the Los Angeles Dodgers' closer. "He's one of the best hitters in the game so I want to face him and see if I can strike him out." Blalock is the only third baseman on the AL roster backing up starter Alex Rodriguez, so he'll probably play the last few innings -- which is exactly when Gagne would pitch. If there's a rematch, Blalock probably shouldn't wait on a fastball, which is what he hit last year. "I'm not going to tell him what I'm going to throw, but it'll maybe be a little bit different," Gagne said, smiling. "Maybe I'll throw him a changeup." Paul LoDuca, Gagne's teammate on the Dodgers and the catcher who called the Blalock homer pitch, said Monday that Gagne acknowledged being less intense than usual during last year's game.
Killer Bs: For more than a decade, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have been the leaders of the Houston Astros. At this year's All-Star game, Houston's lineup is best represented by Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran. Berkman is the NL starting outfielder who is not part of the 500-homer club. He became a starter Sunday when Ken Griffey Jr. was forced out because of an injury, breaking up the collection of elite sluggers that also includes Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. "It's unfortunate because I think it would have been a very historical deal for Ken to be out there," Berkman said. "At the same time, I'm very excited to be playing out there."
LINE DRIVES: A smattering of hits from Monday's media sessions:
*Seeing all 14 living members of the 500-homer club at the home run derby contest Monday night, Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton suggested: "There ought to be a home run hitting contest between them."
*Roger Clemens was the AL starting pitcher in 1986 and now, 18 years later, he's the NL starter. "I tell these guys, if they take care of themselves, they can pitch for a long time."
*NL manager Jack McKeon on facing AL catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who led McKeon's Florida Marlins to the World Series title last year: "Roger and I are going to have to get together. I think I know how to pitch him."
Associated Press

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