Joey Votto’s knee puts Cubs’ Bryan LaHair on call for All-Star start
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 3, 2012 9:28PM
Bryan LaHair, who no longer plays first base for the Cubs since his reassignment to the outfield, might end up starting there Tuesday in the All-Star Game. | Ron Vesely~Getty Images
The facts: 6:10, Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Paul Maholm (5-6, 4.84 ERA) vs. Randall Delgado (4-8, 4.52).
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:27AM
ATLANTA — Bryan LaHair’s All-Star thrill ride might be picking up speed and G-forces as it careens into the weekend.
In his first full big-league season at 29, LaHair will be the National League’s starting first baseman in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City, by rule, if elected starter Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds is forced to miss the game because of a sore left knee that has sidelined him this week.
‘‘It gets better each day, it seems,’’ LaHair said of the starting possibility. ‘‘But you know what? Votto’s a tough kid. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t out there.’’
The bigger shock to anyone just now tuning into the 2012 season would be an NL starting lineup that includes LaHair, a guy with 195 big-league at-bats spread over two seasons three years apart before this season — and 3,624 minor-league at-bats in nine seasons.
He’s also a guy who doesn’t even play first base for the Cubs anymore, having moved to right field with the promotion of first-baseman Anthony Rizzo to the big-league roster.
LaHair, who got off to a torrid start in April, finished second in player voting at first base to earn his All-Star selection. Votto was first among fans and players, and if he’s unable to play Tuesday, LaHair’s ranking on the players’ ballot makes him the starter.
The Reds, who are being cautious with the Votto’s knee, which he hurt Friday, already have said he might miss the All-Star Game to make sure he’s as healthy as possible in the second half.
‘‘Obviously, their team’s in first place right now, and he’s so important to the Cincinnati Reds,’’ LaHair said. ‘‘So if it came down to it, that’d be a tremendous honor. But I’m sure he’ll be out there.’’
Here’s the catch
Steve Clevenger has started behind the plate in four of the Cubs’ last seven games, but manager Dale Sveum said that’s just a function of matchup choices and that Geovany Soto will wind up with ‘‘about 65 percent’’ of the starts.
‘‘It’s not a straight platoon,’’ Sveum said.
Ryan Dempster (strained lat muscle) fared well a day after throwing off a mound for the first time in six weeks and is scheduled for another session Wednesday.
† The Cubs optioned right-hander Casey Coleman to Class AAA Iowa to make room on the roster for Chris Volstad, who was recalled to start Tuesday.