Ensberg replaces Rolen as All-Star
Cards third baseman pulls out at last minute with injury
DETROIT -- Inundated with questions about possibly making the All-Star team in recent weeks, Morgan Ensberg said, "It's like that old joke goes. 'How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans.'"
Ensberg's plan was to go to Lake Tahoe with his wife, Christi, and former teammate and current Padres reliever Scott Linebrink, and his wife, Kelly, during the All-Star break.
Until Sunday, that is, when Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen pulled out of the All-Star Game at the last minute because he needs to "protect his troubled left shoulder." That means Ensberg, whose 24 homers are a franchise record for a third baseman in the first half, is headed to Detroit.
"I see getting voted in as a sign of honor and respect," said Rolen, who was the fans' choice despite missing the last three weeks of May and the first two-plus weeks of June after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a labral tear.
"Me not going, at this point, I certainly hope is not taken as a sign of disrespect to the fans or to Major League Baseball," Rolen said.
Ensberg was considered the most snubbed of all the All-Star candidates who didn't make the cut. He has driven in 65 runs so far this season, and there isn't one Astros player who doesn't credit him for the club's amazing turnaround that put it one game above .500 heading into the midway point of the '05 season.
Ensberg's 24 home runs lead the Majors at the position and are also tied for the fifth-most by a third baseman in the Majors in the first half over the last 10 seasons (1996-2005). In his last 29 games since June 11, Ensberg has 11 home runs and 32 RBIs.
Ensberg's selection gives the Astros four players on the NL All-Star team for the second consecutive season. Houston right-handers Roger Clemens, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt were also named All-Stars this season, while in 2004, Clemens joined Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent as Astros on the NL team.
Ensberg's name popped up earlier last week, when Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis went on the disabled list and had to pull out of the All-Star Game. But the rules state that a player who was voted in by the managers and players has to be replaced by the next-highest vote-getter at that position, so NL manager Tony La Russa wouldn't have had the power to make his own choice even if he wanted to.
But a player voted in by the fans is replaceable by the manager, and on Sunday, La Russa picked Ensberg to fill in for Rolen.
Ensberg, 29, has 65 runs batted in. He's one shy of reaching his career high for homers, and his RBI total is one away from tying his career best. He drove in 66 in 2004.
The Astros had a franchise-record five players named to the All-Star team in 1994, when Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Ken Caminiti, Doug Drabek and John Hudek all earned selection to the NL squad. The Astros also had four members of the National League All-Star team in each of the following seasons: 1979 (Joaquin Andujar, Joe Niekro, Joe Sambito, Craig Reynolds), 1986 (Kevin Bass, Glenn Davis, Mike Scott, Dave Smith), and 1999 (Bagwell, Mike Hampton, Jose Lima, Billy Wagner).
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Tony Kuttner contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.