Ben Sheets, Cliff Lee to start All-Star game

NEW YORK - Fired up about his first trip to Yankee Stadium, Ben Sheets had it all planned out. Arrive early and visit Monument Park, gaze up at that famous facade, drink in the entire experience the same way any fan would.

One big difference, though: The Milwaukee Brewers ace also will get the ball to start tonight's All-Star game for the National League.

'I'm not going to let a stadium intimidate me,' Sheets said Monday in a hotel ballroom, hours before zipping uptown for batting practice and workouts. 'At least while I'm sitting here I'm not.'

Cleveland's Cliff Lee was picked by Boston manager Terry Francona to start for the AL, highlighting a remarkable resurgence for the left-hander after he was demoted to the minors last year.

Now, he's the best of the best as Major League Baseball salutes Yankee Stadium in its final season.

'I'm just honored to be here, to be honest with you. To get the start for me is icing on the cake,' said Lee, 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA. 'I'm kind of awe-struck by it.'

NL manager Clint Hurdle of Colorado tabbed Sheets, who is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Several other NL All-Stars pitched Sunday, making the well-rested Sheets a logical choice.

'Really looking forward to this opportunity to go out there, last All-Star game in Yankee Stadium history,' Sheets said. 'I know one thing, it's going to be glowing as I pull up.

'I'm going to definitely do a sightseeing tour today, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.'

After getting to the ballpark, Sheets was struck by the cramped clubhouse and narrow walkways, outdated elements of a venue that opened in 1923.

'It just seems a little bit smaller than other stadiums I've been in,' he said. 'The other stadiums are new.'

Both managers announced their lineups Monday in the same Manhattan banquet room where the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball was released seven months before.

Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will bat leadoff for the AL, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton, New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Francona kept more than numbers in mind when putting together his batting order.

'For me, a Derek Jeter deserves to hit at the top of the order, in a place like this especially,' he said.

The manager also acknowledged he thought about whether to honor Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with the start in his home ballpark - but only because Francona was asked about it by reporters.

Hurdle put Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez at the top of his order, followed by Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols at designated hitter, Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, Colorado's Matt Holliday in right field, Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, Chicago's Kosuke Fukudome in center and Cubs rookie catcher Geovany Soto last.

SideBar: Jones, McCann to play today

ATLANTA - Chipper Jones, picked as a starter for the All-Star game, and Brian McCann, named as a reserve, are prepared to represent the Atlanta Braves at Yankee Stadium tonight while savoring a historic moment.

Jones and McCann are bringing their parents to the game, the final All-Star contest at Yankee Stadium, which will close after this season.

'It's an experience in and of itself, and to be able to share it with those guys is something I'm really looking forward to,' said Jones, who will bat fifth in the NL's lineup. 'Every All-Star experience is tremendous, but I can't wait to see the look on my dad's face when we interact together with some of the greats in the game.

'You interact with all those guys at some point during the course of a season. But my dad doesn't get that opportunity very often, and I'd love to be able to take him down to the clubhouse, and take him out to Monument Grove, watch the look on his face.'

Like Jones, McCann has been to All-Star games before, but knows this one is special.

'If there's a year to make the All-Star team, it's this year,' McCann said. 'Yankee Stadium - there's not a better setting for an All-Star game. It's gonna be the last one played at the Stadium. It's probably going to be one of the best days of my life.'