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Ex-Cub Tommy La Stella on nightmarish July: ‘It still doesn’t feel real’

La Stella — who fouled a ball off his right shin last week, fracturing his tibia — used crutches and a wheelchair to navigate All-Star media day. It was a bummer made infinitely worse given the sudden death on July 1 of Angels teammate Tyler Skaggs.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers
La Stella after fouling a ball off his shin.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — Tommy La Stella wanted to see it for himself, breathe it in, maybe even bask in it just a little.

“Just to be here among the best players in the game was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up,” he said.

But the ex-Cub and current Angels second baseman didn’t want to arrive at his first All-Star Game unable to play due to injury. He certainly didn’t want to be pushed through the crowd at the Huntington Convention Center, site of Monday’s media day, in a wheelchair.

La Stella — who fouled a ball off his right shin last week, fracturing his tibia — also walked on crutches where he could. In all, it was a bummer made infinitely worse given the sudden death on July 1 of Angels teammate Tyler Skaggs.

“It’s been a confusing week or so for us all,” he said. “It still doesn’t feel real. It’s difficult. You’re not going to stop missing Tyler. He was an unbelievable person, one of our leaders, somebody that everybody loved. It doesn’t really feel real. I don’t think it will for a while.”

La Stella, who was a pinch-hitting specialist with the Cubs, has blown up in Anaheim, batting .300 with 16 home runs and 44 RBI. Think his old team could use him?

“Ha — they’re fine with what they’ve got,” he said.

He’ll be out an estimated eight to 10 weeks.

“With what we’re all dealing with right now?” he said, looking down. “Breaking your leg is meaningless.”

Drive for show, drive for dough

Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso won the Home Run Derby on a warm night at Progressive Field. The weather had to help his cause, right? Maybe the baseballs, too.

Alonso beat Vlad Guerrero Jr. on a night when the Jays rookie became a major celebrity. Guerrero, 20, set the records for most home runs in a single round (40) and in a single Derby (91).

But Alonso’s 23 dingers in the final round were enough to topple Guerrero — and win the $1 million first-place prize.

Gio-late-o?

Houston’s Justin Verlander will get the ball to begin Tuesday’s game. Considering his standing as one of the greats of his era, that’s no surprise.

AL manager Alex Cora indicated that Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka — who was added to the All-Star roster as a replacement player — will follow Verlander to the mound. Based strictly on merit, this would give supporters of the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito cause to ask questions.

The order makes sense, though. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez likely will be the receiver for both Verlander and Tanaka, his teammate. It opens the chance for Giolito and Sox catcher James McCann — both making All-Star debuts — to work as battery mates.

“That would be awesome,” Giolito said.

Words collide

Chicago’s All-Star catchers had different reactions to a controversial play Sunday in which Astros base runner Jake Marisnick ran over Jonathan Lucroy at home plate, sending the Angels catcher to the hospital. The play became the subject of a social-media argument between Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and various members of the Astros.

“Marisnick was running full speed down the line and doing everything he can to score,” McCann said. “But I know Marisnick. I don’t believe there was any ill intent.”

Said the Cubs’ Willson Contreras: “I saw that, but I’m not going to say.”

Worth a shot

The Sox claimed first baseman A.J. Reed off waivers from the Astros on Monday. Reed, 25, was a second-round draft pick in 2014 and, by 2016, was considered one of the top hitting prospects in the game. Instead, he has languished at the Class AAA level for most of the last four seasons. The Sox assigned him to Class AAA Charlotte.