Jul 12, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT
Updated at 8:13 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA — The 102-loss, 2008 Nationals had All-Star Cristian Guzman. The 103-loss, 2009 Nationals had All-Star Ryan Zimmerman.
The first-place, 2014 Nationals, however, will have no active players at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game after injured right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was replaced today by Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez.
NL manager Mike Matheny of the defending league champion Cardinals, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, announced Zimmermann’s replacement this afternoon, selecting Alvarez over several potential alternatives off the Nationals’ pitching staff in a decision that didn’t sit well within Washington’s clubhouse, though players were hesitant to say anything derogatory on the record.
“No comment,” shortstop Ian Desmond said, before adding: “It’s good. That means four days off for all of our guys. Selfishly, I’ll take that.”
Matheny was under no obligation to select another Nationals player, because as long as Zimmermann attends the festivities in Minneapolis, he officially will be representing his franchise. The right-hander, selected to his second consecutive All-Star Game on Sunday, had to depart Friday night’s start against the Phillies with biceps cramping. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI today, the results of which will determine the club’s plan moving forward, but no matter the diagnosis he won’t be cleared to pitch in the Midsummer Classic.
Manager Matt Williams spoke with Matheny on Friday afternoon, before the Nationals’ game, wondering whether the Cardinals manager planned to use Zimmermann on Tuesday. Once Zimmermann was injured, Williams texted Matheny on Friday night to inform his counterpart of the situation. As of Saturday afternoon, Matheny had not responded.
“I talked to Mike yesterday prior to the game and was asking about Jordan and whether he was for sure going to give him an inning and what his plans were,” Williams said. “He said yeah, he planned on it. I texted him last night and let him know that I had to take Jordan out of the game, but I haven’t heard from him since. They’re playing right now, so he’s really busy too, so I haven’t heard back anything from him yet.”
So, a Nationals club that enters play tonight with a 49-42 record, tied with the Braves atop the NL East, will have no active players at the All-Star Game. Meanwhile, eight other clubs with losing records will send multiple players to Minnesota: the Marlins, Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, White Sox, Twins and Rangers.
Several members of the Nationals organization already were upset when Zimmermann was named the team’s lone All-Star last weekend, citing the merits of closer Rafael Soriano (1.00 ERA, 21-of-23 saves), setup men Drew Storen (1.24 ERA) and Tyler Clippard (1.85 ERA) and starters Doug Fister (8-2, 2.90 ERA) and Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 3.47 ERA, NL-leading 140 strikeouts).
“Why not take Clippard? He’s got good numbers,” said Soriano, who reiterated he would not have accepted an invitation to attend as a replacement after not being among the initial selections. “Maybe Drew. He’s got good numbers, too.”
Any one of those pitchers had a case to be selected as Zimmermann’s replacement. In the end, Matheny and MLB went with Alvarez, who owns a 6-4 record with a 2.63 ERA in 19 starts (including an NL-best three shutouts).
The Nationals also had at least two position players with cases for selection: Anthony Rendon (.283, 13 homers, 52 RBI, .825 OPS) and Adam LaRoche (.290, 12 homers, 47 RBI, .395 on-base percentage, .970 OPS).
Williams remained diplomatic when asked if he thought Zimmermann’s replacement should have come from the same team, the one that entered play Saturday in first place.
“That’s not up to me,” he said. “I’m worried about trying to figure out Cole [Hamels] and see if we can win this one tonight and win the one tomorrow. But we have a representative there. [Zimmerman] is our representative. Just because he’s not going to be able to participate doesn’t take anything away from that.”
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