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Cubs embrace All-Star target with MLB-high 7 selections

Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant make up half of the all-Cub NL starting infield for the July 12 All-Star game.

The Cubs picked a fight with the rest of the National League when they claimed to “embrace the target” in spring training and then literally started wearing the targets on their chests in the form of T-shirts.

Now they’ll go after the American League.

The Cubs could have as many as six players in the NL starting lineup for the July 12 All-Star Game, including the entire starting infield.

They lead the majors with seven overall selections – most for the club since the 2008 playoff team had eight – while the White Sox landed just one All-Star, left-hander Chris Sale, a favorite to start the game.

The Cubs are the first team since the 1963 Cardinals to field an entire starting infield for an All-Star Game – first ever to have all four elected (Cards second baseman Stan Javier was an injury replacement for Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski in ’63).

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who remembered that team as a 9-year-old Cardinals fan. “As a kid back then, my God, I was blown away by it. Any 9-year-old right now that’s seeing this Cub infield go, I’d like to feel they felt exactly like I did.”

The Cubs nabbed five of the eight starting spots in fan balloting, with center fielder Dexter Fowler joining first baseman Anthony Rizzo (the NL’s top vote getter), second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant.

Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, the NL’s reigning Cy Young Award winner, earned his first All-Star selection, through the players’ ballot, and Cubs left-hander Jon Lester was selected by NL manager Terry Collins of the Mets.

“I think what it says is that we have an incredible fan-base engine right now. I mean, the Cubs’ fan base is huge,” said Zobrist, the first-year Cub and third-time All-Star.

“Look around our clubhouse, it’s incredible the players that we have – but certainly the seasons that guys have had so far up to this point,” said Zobrist. “I think this club has a long ways to go, and we feel like we can play a lot better. But the start that we’ve had to the season I think has been a big reason why fans and people have noticed. Just the assembly of players that we have in here is an All-Star caliber assembly.”

No other NL team had more than one player voted into the lineup: Giants catcher Buster Posey Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, and Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

The Cubs are the first team since the 1985 Padres with five starters – first to have five voted in since the 1976 Big Red Machine. The ’85 Padres starters included pitcher LaMarr Hoyt and injury replacement Terry Kennedy at catcher.

None of the Cubs four starting infielders finished first at his position on the players’ ballot.

But it doesn’t stop them from having a shot at having all five infielders in the lineup, if Arrieta is selected for what could be a first-ever all-Chicago starting pitching matchup.

Asked if Chicago deserves that matchup, Maddon said: “I don’t know if the city deserves it. I think the city would dig it.”

Sale would be the first White Sox pitcher to start the game since Mark Buehrle in 2005. Arrieta would be the first Cub pitcher since Claude Passeau in 1946.

“I think it’s up for grabs,” said Arrieta (12-3, 2.33 ERA), who has one more start Friday in Pittsburgh to make his case. “There’s several guys that could be deserving of the honor of starting, whether it’s me or not. It’d be great to start. It’d also be just great to pitch in the game and just be part of the three days in San Diego.”

Said Bryant: “Just having your teammates and your friends there will make it even more special. Probably the nerves won’t be there as much as last year, because when you look around, and it’ll look just like a normal game.”