Gallen, Cole get the honor of 1st career All-Star starts

July 10th, 2023

SEATTLE -- This is the sixth All-Star Game selection for , but the Yankees ace has been chasing the illustrious start and the pedigree that comes with it. Meanwhile, is pitching in his first Midsummer Classic and in many ways is the embodiment of the up-and-coming D-backs, who’ve surprised their way to a tie for first place, in huge part, on his shoulders. 

Those two arms will represent the American League and National League, respectively, as the starters for the 93rd All-Star Game on Tuesday at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, named by managers Rob Thomson of the Phillies and Dusty Baker of the Astros.

In a historical quirk, the last time the Midsummer Classic was played here in 2001, it featured a Yankee and D-back starting pitching matchup, between Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson. Cole is the first in pinstripes to do so since and 12th overall, while Gallen becomes the first for Arizona since Curt Schilling in 2002, following two straight ASG starts by Johnson.

“I think it's just always something that I've wanted to do, and I feel like I'm physically able to do it and I got an opportunity and thankful that Dusty selected me,” said Cole, who’s only pitched in one of his previous five All-Star Games, in 2015 when he was with the Pirates.

Cole has blossomed into one of the very best pitchers of his generation, a strikeout artist and overwhelming power pitcher who’s been able to make some significant mid-career adjustments that have helped his career soar. And while he’s still seeking the illustrious hardware -- having twice finished runner-up for the Cy Young Award and being part of the 2019 Astros team that lost Game 7 of the World Series -- starting a Midsummer Classic represents a significant achievement.

“Some of my fondest memories growing up, one of them was watching Pedro [Martinez] in the All-Star Game starting, and I've been to a few of them and had the pleasure of watching some future Hall of Famers do it,” Cole said. “I've always been like, ‘Man, I really hope I could do that one day.’”

For all these reasons -- and that Houston’s Framber Valdez pitched on Saturday, Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan is on the injured list and that the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch Tuesday due to a blister -- Baker selected Cole. 

“The guy has been here five, six times; it’s about time he started one,” Baker said. “And plus, he's one of the best there is. And plus, he wanted it. A lot of guys, sometimes they might not want to pitch in this particular game, but he wanted to pitch.”

The other worthy candidate was Seattle’s Luis Castillo for the obvious nod of this being his home ballpark. 

“It was a little surprising,” Castillo said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. “Even though it's home here, there are some pitchers with better numbers, so I feel like they deserve it, too.”

Cole will certainly have his work cut out when squaring off against Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman to begin the first inning. Acuña is hitting .425/.495/.700 (1.195 OPS) in the first inning alone. 

As for Gallen, the 27-year-old right-hander is 11-3 with a 3.04 ERA and 125 strikeouts. He's tied for the MLB lead in wins and leads the NL with a 1.04 WHIP.

“We just looked at the numbers and Zac's numbers just came off the page for us. ... The numbers are incredible,” Thomson said. “So, he's had a great year. Let's keep him healthy and keep him going.”

“It's been a whirlwind, really,” Gallen said. “Yeah, I think I found out Wednesday or Thursday morning, [D-backs manager] Torey [Lovullo] had FaceTimed me. So I kind of had to tell white lies for the last few days to my family and stuff like that.

Last year's All-Star Game starting pitchers were McClanahan for the AL and Clayton Kershaw for the NL.

Here are the starting lineups for Tuesday's Midsummer Classic:

National League
1. Ronald Acuña Jr., RF (ATL)
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B (LAD)
3. Mookie Betts, CF (LAD)
4. J.D. Martinez, DH (LAD)
5. Nolan Arenado, 3B (STL)
6. Luis Arraez, 2B (MIA)
7. Sean Murphy, C (ATL)
8. Corbin Carroll, LF (AZ)
9. Orlando Arcia, SS (ATL)

American League
1. Marcus Semien, 2B (TEX)
2. Shohei Ohtani, DH (LAA)
3. Randy Arozarena, LF (TB)
4. Corey Seager, SS (TEX)
5. Yandy Díaz, 1B (TB)
6. Adolis García, RF (TEX)
7. Austin Hays, CF (BAL)
8. Josh Jung, 3B (TEX)
9. Jonah Heim, C (TEX)