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As Bucs improve, so do All-Star odds

As Pirates improve, so do All-Star odds

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' improved play in the last week has unfortunately not yet resulted in increased support at the All-Star Game ballot box.

For the second straight week, there were no Pirates players to be found among the top five vote-getters at first base, second base, third base, shortstop or catcher, nor were there any Bucs ranked in the top 15 among outfielders.

While it obviously doesn't help the Pirates' cause that three of their eight players on the ballot -- catcher Benito Santiago, first baseman Craig Wilson and third baseman Ty Wigginton -- are either injured or no longer with the club, the Bucs do have several worthy candidates.

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Reigning National League Rookie of the Year Jason Bay continues to dispel the notion of a sophomore jinx. Bay entered the week with a .292 average, and he's on pace to top his home run output of a season ago (26).

After a slow start, 2004 All-Star shortstop Jack Wilson has been on a tear. The 2004 NL Silver Slugger winner entered Interleague Play batting .429 in his previous nine games. Wilson's defense continues to be worthy of Gold Glove consideration.

Wilson's double-play partner, Jose Castillo, has emerged as one of the top defensive second baseman in the NL. His bat hasn't been too shabby, either. Castillo hit .327 with 13 RBIs in his first 28 games after returning from a stint on the disabled list.

Right fielder Matt Lawton was a member of the 2003 American League All-Stars while with the Cleveland Indians. Lawton entered the week leading the Pirates with six home runs, 25 RBIs and seven steals while hitting mostly out of the leadoff spot in the order.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 individual club sites. Online balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30. The ushers at PNC Park will continue distributing ballots at the site of the 2006 All-Star Game until June 22.

The 2005 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, which will air live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 3.

This special program will feature the announcement of the 17 elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star team managers, Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox and Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Major League Baseball.

Ed Eagle 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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