Void left by Zito being filled capably by All-Star Haren

The Oakland pitcher will face a strong National League

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Dan Haren has always lacked the luster of his big-name teammates, quietly putting up big numbers and impressing opposing hitters.

With Barry Zito out of Oakland and the spotlight mostly his own this year, Haren has shown he has the stuff and the composure to be a No. 1 pitcher on any staff, including a star-studded one at the All-Star game.

Haren was picked Monday to start for the American League just across the bay from his home ballpark in Oakland.

“I had been always kind of under the radar,” Haren said Monday. “Now that I’m in the limelight so to speak, at least for the next couple of days, I’m just going to try to have as much fun as I can rather than putting so much pressure on myself and have this be a rough couple of days.”

Haren will be on center stage tonight, facing a power-packed National League lineup featuring Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Prince Fielder. Opposing him on the mound will be San Diego’s Jake Peavy, another young pitcher just starting to come into his own.

Haren is 10-3 with an AL-leading 2.30 ERA. He certainly had the credentials to earn the All-Star start, but there was plenty of competition for AL manager Jim Leyland to sift through, including his own no-hit stud Justin Verlander of Detroit.

Two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana, C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett and John Lackey also are on the staff.

“I felt that Danny’s numbers certainly should give him the right to start this game,” Leyland said. “And I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t a nice extra touch since he pitches right across the Bay here in this area. Truthfully, if this game was in Cleveland, it would probably be Sabathia and if it was in Detroit it would be Verlander. So there was a little added incentive for me.”

Remarkable turnaround

Peavy earned the start for the NL, part of a remarkable turnaround from a rare off year. Peavy struggled to an 11-14 record with a 4.09 ERA last season in his worst year since becoming a full-time starter in 2003. Hampered by tendinitis in his pitching shoulder after participating in the World Baseball Classic last spring, Peavy was unable to throw between starts the first half of last season.

Peavy was just 4-8 with a 4.46 ERA at the break last season, at the break before the midseason respite helped him turn it around, going 7-4 down the stretch.

But he got off to a fast start this season, shutting the Giants out for six innings in an opening day win at the same ballpark that will host the All-Star game. Peavy is 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA that trails only teammate Chris Young in the NL.

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