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All-Star Game roster rules FAQ

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The rosters for the 2023 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard are about to be revealed — a process that began with the starters being announced Thursday night. If you want to know how players are being picked for the July 11 Midsummer Classic at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, here is an explainer.

The pitchers and reserves for both squads — totaling 23 players for each side — will be determined via “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the Commissioner’s Office. The complete All-Star rosters will be announced during the 2023 Scotts MLB All-Star Selection Show on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

While the way starters are chosen has evolved, the way pitchers and position-player reserves are selected is largely unchanged.

Here’s a handy FAQ to guide you through the particulars of the selection process.

How are the starters selected?
The nine starting position players in each league (including the DH in each league) are selected by the fans via two phases of voting. In Phase 1, fans vote on a full slate of players at each position and pick their top choice (three in the outfield) in each league at each position. The top overall vote-getters in each league are awarded starting spots and skip Phase 2.

In Phase 2 (a.k.a. the All-Star Ballot Finals), fans must select from the two finalists at each position, and the winners of these showdowns start the All-Star Game. Vote totals from Phase 1 do not carry over to Phase 2. (With Shohei Ohtani the top overall vote-getter in the AL and Ronald Acuña Jr. the top overall vote-getter in the NL in Phase 1, there was no need for a Phase 2 vote in the AL at DH, and the NL outfield was limited to four selections instead of six.)

How many spots have to be filled?
Finalists who don’t win the All-Star Ballot Finals at their position are not automatically added to All-Star rosters, so after the starters are selected by fans, each league has 23 spots to fill to reach a total of 20 position players and 12 pitchers per side.

Who picks the reserves and pitchers?
In short, it’s a group effort between the player ballot and the Commissioner’s Office. A change made in 2017 resulted in All-Star skippers no longer having a say in selections, so there’s no longer the potential for any perceived conflicts of interest.

How many player ballot selections are there?
The ballots gathered from players account for 17 players in each league — eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), as well as one backup for each position.

What if the players select a guy already voted into the starting lineup by the fans?
Next man up. The guy who was second on the player ballot at that particular position is selected as the backup. This doesn’t change the number of player ballot selections. The player ballot is basically used as a pecking order to fill the backup slot at each position.

How many MLB selections are there?
The Commissioner’s Office is responsible for selecting six additional players in each league (four pitchers and two position players). At this stage, MLB must ensure that every club is represented by at least one All-Star selection.

Is every team represented?
Yes, and it is the job of the Commissioner’s Office to ensure this stipulation is accounted for with its selections. It should be noted, however, that if a player is selected to the roster and can’t participate, he does not necessarily have to be replaced by a teammate.

How is the starting pitcher for each team determined?
By the league managers. The announcement is made the day before the game.

Who picks the replacements for injured players or those who decline to participate?
If an elected starter is unable to play, the manager will choose one of the player selections to replace him in the starting lineup. The roster replacement is then chosen by the league.

If a player-elected reserve position player must be replaced, the next in line on the player ballot becomes a reserve, unless the leaders of the player ballot have already been accounted for. If the top finishers on the player ballot are already All-Stars, then MLB can select another replacement.

Does an injured or otherwise unavailable player have to be replaced by a player from the same position?
Not necessarily. Pitchers are replaced by pitchers. But on the position-player front, we’ve seen situations like infielders replacing outfielders and vice versa.

Are starters who pitch the Sunday before the game allowed to participate?
Initially, Sunday starters were deemed ineligible. Then, they were allowed to make the decision themselves (albeit limited to a single inning if they opted to play). Now, clubs or players are allowed to make requests for usage accommodation if there are factors (such as an IL stint, recent surgery, innings workload or other reasons) that would affect the pitcher’s availability. If an accommodation is granted, then the parties agree upon the pitcher’s status and workload availability.

What if a selected player gets traded to a team in the opposite league before the All-Star Game?
This happened to Jeff Samardzija in 2014, when the Cubs dealt him to the A’s. Samardzija was deemed ineligible to participate in the game, but was still recognized as an All-Star for the NL (he wore a generic NL jersey and All-Star Game cap for the pregame player introductions). With the game no longer counting for home-field advantage in the World Series, it’s unclear if MLB would take as stringent a stance should a similar scenario play out.

Anything else to know?
Yes, Commissioner Rob Manfred has the option of making Special Selections to honor active players with distinguished careers. These selections, if made, are additional roster spots and do not count toward team representation. In 2022, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera were Special Selections.

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