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Washington Nationals' Matt Capps makes all-star team; Stephen Strasburg left off

Stephen Strasburg had the least-impressive start of his young career, but Iván Rodríguez made fans forget about the phenom's struggles.

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His nonchalance contrasted with Capps's elation. Last year, he went 4-8 with 27 saves and a 5.80 ERA. By season's end, he lost his grip on the Pittsburgh Pirates' closer position. In December, the Pirates did not tender Capps a contract -- they had an exclusive chance to negotiate with Capps or offer him arbitration, and they chose to let him to walk away.

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"It shows what the guy is made of," Rizzo said. "He's a warrior. He's a tough guy."

Capps arrived early Sunday at Nationals Park. At 9 a.m., he sat down to eat breakfast in the clubhouse. He saw Rizzo walk into Manager Jim Riggleman's office. Pitching coach Steve McCatty called him into the room.

"That's usually not a good thing," Capps said.

It had not dawned on him that the all-star team announcement would come later in the day. The three men looked at Capps for a moment, and then told him he had been picked. In his first full season pitching without his father, Capps had become one of baseball's best.

"It kind of hit me this morning when they told me," Capps said. "I wish he could see it. He'll be with me."

First, Capps called his wife. Next, he called his mother. Kathy called all of her friends at Alexander High School in Douglasville, Ga., where she is a school administrator.

"It's just a dream come true for him," Kathy said. "It's more than I ever could have dreamed of."

For Zimmerman to join Capps, he'll have to beat out Padres closer Heath Bell, Rockies outfielder Carlos González, Reds first baseman Joey Votto and Braves closer Billy Wagner. Last year, Zimmerman made his first all-star team.

Rizzo said Zimmerman, catcher Iván Rodríguez, first baseman Adam Dunn and left fielder Josh Willingham also deserved spots.

The biggest snub among Nationals belonged to outfielder Willingham. While Zimmerman and Dunn have enjoyed comparable, if not better, seasons, Willingham has performed best compared to his position. He entered Sunday ranked third among oufielders in OPS, first in on-base percentage and tied for third in home runs.

"Those guys belong on the team," Rizzo said. "There are only so many spots on the team."

Only Capps, the closer dumped by his team in the offseason, the son who lost a father last October, has one of those spots.

"It's been a long, fun road," Capps said. "I wouldn't trade any of it, the ups or the downs. It's a pretty satisfying feeling right now."


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