PHOENIX – The yearly dilemma facing managers of the All-Star game centers upon the usual and prevailing issues. The question of playing time for each player, reserves and use of pitchers top the list.
For Rob Thomson of the Philadelphia Phillies, who will manage the National League in next week’s mid-summer classic in Seattle, his selection as starting pitcher will likely draw the most interest. Coming into the All-Star game, the Arizona Diamondbacks have two pitchers of consideration.
While right-hander Merrill Kelly, in the middle of a strong season (9-4, 3.22 ERA, 16 starts, 10 quality starts) is sidelined with a blood clot, the other half is worthy of deliberation. Given the achievement of righty Zac Gallen over the past two seasons, his selection to start for the National League makes sense.
First, consider the 2022 season.
Gallen set a franchise record for consecutive scoreless innings. His mark of 44.1 surpassed Brandon Webb (42 straight scoreless innings in 2007) and represented the seventh longest in the history of the game. That is held by the Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser of 59 straight scoreless innings in 1988. Last season, Gallen finished with a 12-4 mark and 2.54 ERA for 31 starts.
Now a year later, he continues to dominate teams. Coming into Sunday’s start against the Angels, Gallen carried in a 10-2 mark and 3.02 ERA for 17 starts. Of these starts, 10 are considered “quality starts.”
Going forward, Gallen would make his next start Friday night against the Pirates in Chase Field and then have his usual five days of rest and preparation. That would put the following start a week from Tuesday and that’s the All-Star game. Yet, the level of competition is strong.
Another potential starter also went on Sunday and that was Spencer Strider of the Braves. As well, Thomson could select Taijuan Walker, a former Diamondback and currently on his staff in Philly, or righty Marcus Stroman and lefty Justin Steele, a pair of Cub starters.
If Thomson hands Gallen the ball next Tuesday night in Seattle, it’s an honor that will not likely be rejected. Then again, there was startling rejection earlier this year,
That’s when Gallen respectfully turned down an opportunity to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this past March. At that time, he cited preparation for the season ahead. Now with the All-Star game directly in focus, Gallen will likely accept the honor.
There’s another consideration.
If Thomson gives Gallen the ball, there is a geographical connection. Gallen’s hometown is Somerdale, N.J. and that’s directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. That would appear to be a natural connection with a Phillies manager handing the ball to a south Jersey native.
Over the past two seasons, Gallen emerged as a textbook student of the game. When he’s not studying film, he’s pouring over notes and graphics on his iPad. Gallen’s main objective is two-fold. One, to consistently improve and adjust and to go deep into games. That would give his team an opportunity to win, he acknowledges.
“My plan each night is to command all four quadrants of the plate,” Gallen said earlier this season. “That’s important so I don’t rely heavily on a change or a curve over one particular night. It’s about command and be smart about the use of pitches.”
Over the recent past, his work habits have gathered the attention of teammates and field manager Torey Lovullo. Least of all, Gallen maintains one desire: improve with each trip to the mound.
“I am so particular, and this game is so results-oriented,” Gallen said. “In the long run and for me to be successful in a results-oriented environment, it’s about consistency. Also, I learned at an early age the need to make adjustments with the least amount of pitches.”
All-Star game notes … the Diamondbacks’ Corbin Carroll, voted in as a National League outfielder, is day to day with a right shoulder injury. Though not considered serious, Carroll, a Seattle native, should make his start next Tuesday night … Major League Baseball is emphasizing a clear Seattle-Washington state tie to the game. Todd Tichenor will have the plate and function as the crew chief.
Washington state native Quinn Wolcott (first base), Washington state resident Tripp Gibson (second base), Stu Scheurwater (third base), Washington state native Ryan Blakney (left field), and Ramon De Jesus (right field) are the umpires assigned to the game.