No one asked Rafael Soriano if he wanted to take Jordan Zimmermann’s place in the All-Star Game. In the wake of Zimmermann’s biceps cramp knocking him out of the game, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny didn’t try to select the closer with a 1.00 ERA and 21 saves. If he did, Soriano would have turned him down, because he had already made a promise about how he would spend his all-star break.
“I’m going home,” Soriano said. “I told my mom, ‘I’m going to see you on Monday morning.’ I’ve got plans to see my mom and not worry about baseball.”
Still, Soriano joined his teammates in questioning why no Nationals player will appear in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Matheny named Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez as Zimmermann’s replacement. Alvarez, at 6-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 19 starts, is a worthy selection. But it leaves the Nationals, who are tied for first place in the National League East, with no active players for the showcase in Minnesota.
The Nationals have several candidates: relievers Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard; first baseman Adam LaRoche; infielder Anthony Rendon, who finished fourth in the final fan vote; and starters Stephen Strasburg (who leads the league in strikeouts) and Doug Fister, who missed April but is 8-2 with a 2.90 ERA. None of them are slam-dunk choices, but could have Matheny ensured at least one player from a team tied for first place appeared in the game?
“You would think,” third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “They could pick a ton of relievers that we have — Drew’s had a great year. Sori’s had a great year. Clip has a good year every year. I don’t understand how Rendon is not there. I think we have plenty of people that could represent us. That’s how it works. The game has become just, whoever goes. If you’re in first place, you got a lot of good players on your team.”
Zimmermann’s biceps cramp forced him out of the Nationals’ 6-2 loss Friday night, and at the very least it will prevent him from pitching in the All-Star Game for the second straight season. Last year, a stiff neck turned him into an observer at baseball’s annual showcase.
“Obviously, there were a couple guys on our team that were deserving,” Zimmerman said. “Every year, there seems to be six or seven guys that don’t get a chance to go. It stinks for Jordan because it’s fun to play in that game. It’s better to be healthy, ready for the second half of the season.”
Williams spoke with Matheny prior to Friday’s game. Matheny checked to ensure Zimmermann could throw one inning Tuesday night for the National League, and Williams told him he could. After the game, Williams sent Matheny a text message, alerting him that Zimmermann needed to leave the game and could no longer participate. Williams said Matheny did not respond.
“He’s really busy, too,” Williams said. “I haven’t heard anything yet.”
“He’s still our representative,” Williams said. “There’s not much you can do about guys getting injured or not being able to participate. We had a couple of guys in the mix. Anthony was in there for a while. Jordan is our representative, and if all things are equal, he would be our guy, anyway. Disappointed? No. We got a couple of games to win here.”
Zimmermann’s replacement did not need to come from the Nationals because MLB still considers Zimmermann the Nationals’ all-star representative, even though he will not pitch. Manager Matt Williams planned to speak with Mike Matheny, the National League manager, Saturday morning. Matheny could have chosen a National to fill Zimmermann’s spot, but he was under no obligation.
Even before Zimmermann’s injury knocked him off the roster, the original all-star reveal wrankled the Nationals. Reliever Tyler Clippard called the omission of closer Rafael Soriano, who has 21 saves and a 1.03 ERA, “a joke.” Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said he would “boycott” the All-Star Game if Anthony Rendon, who ultimately lost out in the final vote, did not eventually wind up on the roster.
“The game’s kind of a joke, anyway,” one Nationals player said.
“Well,” shortstop Ian Desmond said, “no comment.”
Desmond did stump for Rendon. “He deserves it, simple as that,” Desmond said. “He deserves to be in the All-Star Game. It’s baffling.”
Matheny did not need to take a pitcher, and so he had the option of choosing Rendon to replace Zimmermann. He could have taken Soriano, but Soriano already told The Post he had no intention of accepting an all-star roster spot as an injury replacement.
“Everything I haven, nobody give it to me,” Soriano said Saturday. “I’m not taking it like that.”
Instead, Soriano will spend three days with his mother. She will cook him different kinds of fish and goat stew, and that’s good enough for him. “I’m going to come back strong,” Soriano said with a laugh, rubbing his stomach.
“It’s good,” Desmond said. “That’ll be four days off for all of our guys. Selfishly, I’ll take that.”