KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's not too often an All-Star manager gets second-guessed for choosing a starting pitcher who has thrown a perfect game and is near the top of the league in ERA.
But Tony La Russa found himself defending his choice of San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain as the National League's starting pitcher.
La Russa chose Cain over New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who is tied for the league lead in wins (12), is second in strikeouts (123) and has only one loss this season.
"I know Dickey's going to pitch," La Russa said. "I'm very aware of the first half that he's had."
He said he selected Cain, who is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA because he is deserving of the honor and he would be able to pitch to fellow Giants player Buster Posey, the NL's starting catcher.
American League manager Ron Washington tabbed Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who won the MVP and Cy Young awards a year ago, to start. It is the first time Verlander and Cain will start an All-Star Game, and it will be Cain's first appearance in the game. He has been selected to the team twice before, but he never got into the game.
The distinction of starter was one Cain was not expecting, he said.
"I was actually thinking that it might be a little help if R.A. would be able to start it because then Buster could be able catch him [Monday] then catch him warming up, to get a little help that way," Cain said.
The knuckleball is a difficult pitch to catch because its trajectory is often unpredictable.
LaRussa said he anticipates bringing Dickey into the game at the same time as Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who could spend time catching Dickey in the bullpen as he warms up.
Washington said he expects "a lot" out of Verlander, who he called "rested" having not pitched since Wednesday.
"I've been to a few in the past, and some I didn't have the opportunity to pitch in, like last year," Verlander said. "Some, I came out of the bullpen. This is something different. I'm going to relish every moment of it."
Rookie phenom Mike Trout was in awe of the spectacle he is experiencing at the All-Star Game.
But Trout, 20, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, is trying to soak in everything.
"I'm still thinking about it right now, just meeting the guys and getting to know them," Trout said. "I'm going to try to pick away Derek Jeter's brain a little bit, him being my role model."
Trout said he has talked only briefly to Jeter in the past -- " ... when I'm standing on second base."
The notion brought back memories for Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop who made his All-Star debut in 1998. Then, he said, the veteran players made him feel comfortable. He hopes to do the same to some of the game's young stars, many of whom tell him they grew up idolizing him.
"It can be embarrassing at times, but it makes you feel good," Jeter said. "It makes you feel like you did something right. But I get that more and more."
A baseball career that spans nearly five decades will come full circle for La Russa tonight.
He made his major league debut in Kansas City for the Kansas City Athletics in 1963. He will manage his final game tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
La Russa retired in 2011 after leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series championship but was permitted to coach in the All-Star Game, an honor for the managers of World Series teams.
"To think the last time that I'm going to put a uniform on will be in Kansas City is just an unbelievable coincidence I still can't believe," he said.