Stellar stats not strong enough to earn sterling setup guys All-Star nods

As All-Star roster selection time approaches, the Nationals' Tyler Clippard and the Orioles' Jim Johnson are in the usual predicament for pitchers that act as the bridge between starter and closer: They have dazzling statistics, but not much hope of making an All-Star roster for the July 12 game in Arizona.

"Setup pitchers don't always get the credit they are due,'' Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty said. "It would be hard to imagine where a team would be without good middle relievers.''

Clippard went into Tuesday night with a 2.00 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 15 walks in 45 innings while Johnson had a 2.33 ERA with 32 strikeouts and eight walks in 46 1/3 innings.

Jeff Nelson of the Seattle Mariners and Mike Stanton of the New York Yankees were the first setup pitchers in 2001 to make All-Star rosters. Since rosters were expanded to 34 players in 2003, 10 setup pitchers have made roster. Last season, of the 26 pitchers combined on the roster, four were setup guys.

"It'd be nice to make the All-Star team, but I don't think about it because it is out of my control,'' Clippard says.

Other thoughts on possible selections from the Orioles and Nationals:

* Usually, players that miss a month with injury don't have much of a chance, but Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy's season might be too good to be ignored. Derek Jeter, the fans' choice as the starter, has been out with injury since June 13, and the Yankees aren't sure when he'll be back. Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera, Chicago's Alexei Ramirez and Los Angeles' Erick Aybar are having good seasons and will compete for the two or three spots on the roster.

* Orioles catcher Matt Wieters appears to be a lock. The battle for the starting spot is between Detroit's Alex Avila and New York's Russell Martin. Chances are good that there will be three catchers on roster.

* The American League's starting outfielders will be the Yankees' Curtis Granderson, Texas' Josh Hamilton and Toronto's Jose Bautista. The top candidates for the three or four reserve roles: Matt Joyce of Tampa Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston, Michael Cuddyer of Minnesota, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Brennan Boesch of Detroit and Carlos Quentin of Chicago. So the Orioles' Adam Jones has a chance.

* Albert Pujols' wrist injury might help the Nationals' Michael Morse, who is hitting .303 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. Milwaukee's Prince Fielder will be the starter. Other first basemen to consider: Cincinnati's Joey Votto (.316-11-49), Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (62 RBIs), Florida's Gaby Sanchez (.301 average) and Chicago's Carlos Pena, who has 16 home runs but is only hitting .226. There will be two or three first basemen on the National League roster.

* Nationals closer Drew Storen has saved 19 of 22 games, but his save total is behind nine other closers in the NL.

* The sleeper choice for the Nationals? It could be pitcher Jason Marquis, who is 7-2 with a 3.53 ERA. Or, it could be second baseman Danny Espinosa, who, at this point, is the NL's top rookie.