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All-Star berth in sight for Izturis

All-Star berth in sight for Izturis

SAN DIEGO -- It's all up to Dodgers fans and their computers.

For Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis to add a starting berth in the All-Star Game to his resume, he needs votes and he needs them now. Online voting ends at 8:59 p.m. PT on June 30.

"Everybody wants to be an All-Star," he said. "For me, it would be another dream come true."

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In extremely close voting for the position, Izturis continues to lead David Eckstein of St. Louis, followed by the injured Nomar Garciaparra of the Cubs, Rafael Furcal of the Braves and Jose Reyes of the Mets.

With voting at Dodger Stadium closed, Dodgers fans must turn to the Internet and mlb.com to show their support for the 25-year-old Venezuelan, who would become the first Dodgers shortstop to start an All-Star Game since Bill Russell in 1980, and the first Dodgers shortstop to make an All-Star team since Jose Offerman in 1995.

Manager Jim Tracy might as well be Izturis' campaign manager.

"He's the best shortstop in the game," said Tracy. "He's a complete All-Star-caliber player, and will be for years to come. I've told him, when he builds his house, to make sure the mantle is nice and long, so he can display all of the Gold Gloves he's going to win.

"Hands-down, he should be the starting shortstop for the National League in Detroit. Can you come up with a better name than that? How can you argue with what this kid has done for us so far?"

Izturis has been the best all-around player on the Dodgers this year. He has been the glue that has held together a remodeled infield. He has been the offensive catalyst, hitting above .300 the entire season as the switch-hitting leadoff batter.

He's ranked among the league leaders all season in hits and multihit games, and has been particularly successful batting in the clutch, hitting nearly .500 in "close and late" situations, which are defined as games that are tied, with a one-run differential or with the potential tying run on deck.

Izturis has done this in only his fourth Major League season, and it comes on the heels of receiving his first Gold Glove last year. Not listed among vote-leaders at the position in the first week of balloting, Izturis leaped to the lead last week.

The Dodgers have had only six All-Star shortstops in their history, led by Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese, who appeared in 10 Midsummer Classics, including nine consecutively from 1946-54.

Maury Wills ranks second among Dodgers shortstops with five appearances and was named most valuable player of the second All-Star Game played in 1962.

Russell appeared in three All-Star Games, Leo Durocher was in two as a Dodgers shortstop and Bill Grabarkewitz and Offerman made one appearance each.

Should Izturis be voted into the starting lineup and Jeff Kent also retain his lead at second base, it also would mark the first time since 1980 that the Dodgers started both middle infielders in the Midsummer Classic. That year, Russell was the shortstop and Davey Lopes the second baseman in the game, which was played at Dodger Stadium.

Kent currently leads former Dodger Mark Grudzielanek of St. Louis, followed by Craig Biggio of the Astros, Todd Walker of the Cubs and Marcus Giles of the Braves.

Hee-Seop Choi's recent power surge caught the attention of voters as well, as he appeared among the leaders at first base for the first time, ranking fourth at a position that is dominated by the top two -- Albert Pujols of St. Louis and Derrek Lee of the Cubs. Doug Mientkiewicz of the Mets is fourth.

Milton Bradley remains a respectable seventh among outfielders, especially considering his absence because of a torn finger ligament. J.D. Drew is 12th among outfielders.

Ken Gurnick 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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