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Home Game: Cards' Pujols leads All-Star voting

Sunday, July 5, 2009

By JAY COHEN

AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Albert Pujols will be in a familiar spot when St. Louis hosts the 80th All-Star game. Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is headed for a brand new situation.

Pujols was the leading vote-getter in balloting for the Midsummer Classic announced Sunday by Major League Baseball, giving the Cardinals first baseman the start in his home ballpark.

"It feels great to be there and represent the organization and the city you play in," Pujols said.

The NL MVP is well on his way to another amazing year, leading the majors with 31 homers and 82 RBIs. He collected 5,397,374 votes to finish with the second-highest total in major league history, trailing only Ken Griffey Jr.'s six million votes in 1994.

"I think that's just a recognition around the country that he's had a phenomenal first half on top of a phenomenal career," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "I'm sure our fans supported him, but he's been incredible and it's well-deserved."

Wakefield made his first All-Star roster in his 17th season, one of a major league-high six Red Sox headed to Busch Stadium for the July 14 game. The 42-year-old right-hander is tied for the big league lead with 10 wins.

Wakefield got a standing ovation when Boston's All-Stars were announced at Fenway Park, and acknowledged the cheering crowd with a wave.

"I have a lot of emotions running through right now," he said after Boston's 8-4 victory over Seattle. "It's a pretty proud moment for me and my family."

Teammate Dustin Pedroia, the reigning AL MVP, passed Texas' Ian Kinsler in a close vote at second base and left fielder Jason Bay also won a spot in the lineup.

While Pedroia rallied to get the start, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis was caught by Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira in the final voting. Youkilis made the team, anyway, along with Boston ace Josh Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The injury-riddled Mets lead the NL with four selections. Center fielder Carlos Beltran and third baseman David Wright were elected by the fans, but Beltran has been out with a bruised right knee and likely won't play.

New York ace Johan Santana and closer Francisco Rodriguez were selected by the players.

Starting for the NL: Pujols at first, Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Wright at third, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Beltran, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Philadelphia's Raul Ibanez in the outfield. Ibanez has been sidelined by a groin injury and could sit out.

Molina, who turns 27 on July 13 and is the youngest of three brothers playing catcher in the majors, becomes the first of his siblings to make the All-Star game.

"It's special for me, for my family, for the people of Puerto Rico," he said. "It's a small country, and it's special for them, too."

The AL starting lineup: Teixeira at first, Pedroia at second, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria, outfielders Bay, Josh Hamilton of Texas and Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle, and Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer.

Hamilton held onto his starting spot despite being on the disabled list for much of the first half with an abdominal injury.

"I don't feel I personally deserve to go but at the same time the fans voted me in so I'm more than happy about that," he said. "It's a real honor for me to go for a second time around."

Jeter was the leading vote-getter in the AL and will make his 10th appearance and sixth start in the Midsummer Classic.

"It's kind of hard to believe," he said. "It makes you feel good."

Jeter and the AL beat the National League 4-3 in 15 innings at Yankee Stadium last season to improve to 11-0-1 since the NL last won in 1996 at Philadelphia's old Veterans Stadium, the longest unbeaten streak in the game's history.

Once again, the league that wins the All-Star game will get home-field advantage in the World Series.

As usual, there were a few snubs to go along with a couple of missing players used to playing in baseball's showcase game.

Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, Milwaukee right-hander Yovani Gallardo and Washington slugger Adam Dunn were left off the NL squad. Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Texas righty Kevin Millwood and Angels starter Jered Weaver failed to make it in the AL.

Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, both 12-time All-Stars, weren't expected to make the rosters, but their absence was compelling nonetheless.

Ramirez was suspended for the first 50 games of the season for violating MLB's drug policy and A-Rod missed time following hip surgery after admitting in spring training to using steroids when he played for the Rangers.

There is still one spot to be determined on each 33-man roster, which was increased by one from last year.

The AL candidates for the last spot in Internet voting: Kinsler, Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind, third basemen Chone Figgins of the Angels and Brandon Inge of Detroit, and Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.

The NL candidates: Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds, outfielders Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Shane Victorino of the Phillies, Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval and Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman.


AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Dave Skretta in New York, and AP freelance writers Ken Powtak in Boston and Ken Sins in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.



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