PITTSBURGH - When it came to making his toughest all-star roster decision, Charlie Manuel had a simple reason for selecting Ryan Howard over Joey Votto.

"He's my guy," Manuel said of Howard. "My player, my guy."

The Cincinnati Reds' Votto, who leads the National League with a .988 OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging percentage) and is being discussed as a possible MVP candidate, has better numbers than Howard but was left off the team. (Votto is, however, one of five players on the online ballot for the final roster spot.)

Howard and Roy Halladay were chosen to join Chase Utley, who was elected by the fans, as the Phillies' all-stars. But much of the talk after the announcement of the teams centered on Manuel, the National League manager, who made 10 selections.

Utley, who is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb and will not play, would have set a team record by starting his fifth straight All-Star Game. Instead, he was replaced on the roster by Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips.

Injured Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco was beaten out by New York's David Wright in the final days of fan voting.

It was Halladay's seventh all-star selection. He was second in the player vote behind Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez.

Howard and Utley each earned a $50,000 bonus for being named to the team, while Halladay pocketed an extra $125,000.

"It feels good," Howard said. "It's a great honor to be selected to play in the All-Star Game."

Howard has 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. Votto's on-base percentage is almost 60 points higher, and his slugging percentage is nearly 70 points higher. He has 19 home runs and 57 RBIs.

"Both of them are having big years," Manuel said. "Both are standing right there. Howard's my guy, and the fact that their numbers are very close, I had to go with my guy."

It's not the first time Manuel has favored one of his own players. Last season, when needing an injury replacement, Manuel chose Jayson Werth over Los Angeles' Andre Ethier using the same rationale: To the victor go the spoils.

As for Halladay, he said he will enjoy this year's game more than last season, when he went to St. Louis amid constant talk of being traded before the deadline. (He, of course, wasn't dealt until the off-season.) This time, he will savor the All-Star Game with his two sons.

"The more you go," Halladay said, "the more you realize the chances of going again are probably smaller."

Halladay, who started last year's All-Star Game for the American League while with the Toronto Blue Jays, said he will be available to pitch but doesn't think he will start again.

"Some of the numbers other guys have, it might be a long shot," Halladay said.

That decision is up to Manuel, who received plenty of scrutiny after his selections.

Manuel is managing the NL team for the second straight year. Besides Phillips and Howard, his picks were St. Louis righthander Chris Carpenter, Milwaukee righthander Yovani Gallardo, Atlanta righthander Tim Hudson, Pittsburgh righthander Evan Meek, Cincinnati lefthander Arthur Rhodes, Atlanta infielder Omar Infante, Houston outfielder Michael Bourn, and Arizona outfielder Chris Young.

Infante was the pick that caused the most consternation. Infante, who doesn't even have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, would have the 66th best OPS (.721) in the NL if he did. For comparison, Raul Ibanez has a .712 OPS.

Manuel said he was told by Major League Baseball to pick a utility player who can reenter the game at any time under new rules.

"He is versatile," Manuel said.

Infante, of course, has very good numbers against the Phillies in 2010. In seven games, he is hitting .353 with a .812 OPS.

First-place San Diego, which has the best team ERA in the majors, did not have a pitcher selected to the team. Manuel said Padres closer Heath Bell was another difficult player to leave off. Bell is on the final vote ballot, along with Votto, Atlanta's Billy Wagner, Washington's Ryan Zimmerman, and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez.

As for Washington phenom Stephen Strasburg, Manuel said he needed more time in the majors.

"I look at Strasburg," Manuel said, "and I felt like, in my opinion, and I'm not his manager, he's a young kid, and let him pitch and let him get his feet on the ground in the major leagues and let him earn his way."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
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