Zimmerman a long shot in fan vote for final spot

The Nationals understand where they reside in Major League Baseball's hierarchy. Nothing demonstrates that better than the selections for next week's All-Star Game.

There were several Nats in the running for the 81st annual summer classic. In the end, only closer Matt Capps was chosen to represent the team in Anaheim, Calif., on July 13. Outfielder Josh Willingham, first baseman Adam Dunn and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman each had a strong case. Even rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg garnered support despite appearing in just six big league games. But last-place teams usually don't get the benefit of the doubt. Zimmerman, one of five candidates left in the final fan vote, remains a long shot. Otherwise -- barring an injury replacement -- Capps is it.

Up next» Washington begins a three-game series against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday at Nationals Park at 7:05 p.m.» Livan Hernandez (6-4, 2.98 ERA) faces Clayton Richard (6-4, 2.74) in the series opener. » The Nats lost two of three games in San Diego in late May. All three contests were decided by two runs or less.

"Those guys belong on the team," Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said. "But there's only so many spots, and it's a tough job for [National League manager] Charlie Manuel to pick the team. There's always guys we feel are left off. Hopefully they use that as incentive to show that they did belong."

Dunn (.904) and Willingham (.926) both rank in the top 20 in baseball in OPS. But at first base Dunn finds himself at a stacked position. Meanwhile, three outfielders were chosen simply because their teams needed a representative -- Marlon Byrd (Chicago Cubs), Michael Bourn (Houston Astros) and Chris Young (Arizona Diamondbacks). Willingham's stats are far superior to that trio. But rules are rules.

Zimmerman had a fine first half. But his play slipped a bit over the last month as New York Mets third baseman David Wright and Cincinnati's Scott Rolen got hot. Strasburg is 2-2 with a 2.45 ERA, but Manuel chose not to bring him. For the Nats, who plan to give the 21-year-old a much-needed rest after his next start, that's probably a good thing.

"[Strasburg is] young, and those things will come," Nats reliever Tyler Clippard said. "But the rest will be really good for him -- mentally as well as physically. I think from an organizational standpoint and selfishly I'm kind of happy he's not going."