ST. PETERSBURG - Mariano Rivera threw his famous cutter and Miguel Tejada hit it in the air to the right side where Ben Zobrist, playing second base, easily grabbed it for the final out of the 2009 All-Star game. Carl Crawford was the MVP, leaving with the trophy after robbing Brad Hawpe of a home run in the bottom of the seventh inning by reaching over the left-field fence at Busch Stadium in St. Louis to make the run-saving catch. Rivera closed out the National League in the ninth inning to preserve the 4-3 victory. It was his record-setting fourth All-Star game save. Yet, Rivera left the stadium a bit empty handed. Zobrist hung on to the ball after recording the final out.
He still has it. "I had a discussion with Mariano after that game, and he graciously let me keep the ball," Zobrist said. "He's had a few of those (saves)." Zobrist and Rivera will be teammates tonight during the All-Star game played at Citi Field. Rivera, playing his final big-league season, could be pitching the ninth inning, and Zobrist also could be on the field. The Rays' second baseman was selected for the squad by American League manager Jim Leyland specifically for the versatility Zobrist brings to a roster. "It's what I kind of assume," Zobrist said. Zobrist can play the infield or the outfield. That he's a switch-hitter makes him ideal for any pinch-hitting situation. His speed makes him valuable as a pinch-runner. Because homefield advantage in the World Series hinges on the outcome of tonight's game, and because Leyland fully expects to have his Tigers back in the World Series, Leyland will be managing for a victory in the later innings. Having a player as versatile as Zobrist will actually increase his bench. It's a role Zobrist has embraced since the 2008 season. It's a role that made him an All-Star in 2009, when Rays manager Joe Maddon, the AL manager that summer, picked Zobrist for the same reasons Leyland did this time. And, because of that, Zobrist said he would bring all his gloves tonight to Citi Field. "Oh yeah," he said. "I'll be ready." firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7227 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO