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South Siders seeking ballot support

South Siders seeking ballot support

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CHICAGO -- If fans were allowed to vote for pitchers on All-Star Game ballots, then the White Sox probably would have three of the top contenders in the American League.

Jon Garland leads the AL with eight victories, with Mark Buehrle right on his heels at seven victories. Dustin Hermanson has been one of the best closers in the game this season, not allowing a run in 2005 and closing out all 11 of his chances. The pitching has carried the White Sox into the top spot of the American League Central.

But there are also a number of position players who deserve consideration for the Midsummer Classic in Detroit.

Despite a slow start average-wise, Paul Konerko ranks a solid third among ballots cast for first basemen. He trails Tino Martinez, New York's popular first baseman, and Boston's Kevin Millar. Konerko leads the team with 37 RBIs and 13 home runs -- without the presence of Frank Thomas in the lineup all season -- and has focused on helping the White Sox continue their early run of success.

Tadahito Iguchi, a 30-year-old rookie from Japan, is hitting over .300, has played flawless defense at second and has sparked the offense with his bat control and speed, hitting second in the lineup. Yet, the top five vote-getters at second base are Baltimore's Brian Roberts, Texas' Alfonso Soriano (both of whom are having phenomenal years), Boston's Mark Bellhorn, the Yankees' Tony Womack and Bret Boone of Seattle.

Scott Podsednik forms a great one-two punch with Iguchi at the top of the order, and leads all of baseball in stolen bases. His speed in the outfield also has helped the pitchers, preventing balls from getting into the gap, or cutting down the bloop hits that fall in before him. Podsednik sits 11th among outfielders in the current round of voting, four spots ahead of White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye.

"Situationally, they have all given themselves up," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of his top offensive players, such as Konerko. "When you play that style, you will not always have the greatest looking numbers, but at the end of the day, all we really care about are the Ws.

"I also see behind some of the other things. How many times have you seen Paulie hit the ball hard and make an out? Quality at-bats are all you can ask from the hitters, and keep battling to stay consistent on the defensive side and the situational side of things, and we'll be OK."

And speaking of Thomas, the White Sox's career leader in home runs (436) is scheduled to make his first Major League appearance in almost 11 months this week. His 2005 baseball action has been limited to extended Spring Training and a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte for a surgically repaired left ankle, but he ranks fifth in the first round of voting at designated hitter.

Only Boston's David Ortiz, Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro, the Yankees' Jason Giambi and Detroit's Dmitri Young fall ahead of him. Thomas' support could increase once he starts getting some at-bats.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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