Ichiro remains set for All-Star berth

Ichiro needs your vote and he needs it now

The past few weeks have been among the most difficult of Ichiro Suzuki's four-plus seasons in the Major Leagues. The only player in MLB history to have at least 200 hits in each of his first four seasons, and the single-season hit king with 262 hits last season, Ichiro goes into Wednesday night's game against the Athletics with .298 batting average and 94 hits in 75 games.

The highlight of Ichiro's season so far is becoming only the third player in MLB history to reach 1,000 hits in fewer than 700 games. Only Chuck Klein (683) and Lloyd Waner (686) reached 1,000 hits faster than Ichiro, who got there in his 696th game.

Still, Ichiro is in position to be the lone Mariner voted onto the American League All-Star team with a late push. Johnny Damon of the Red Sox passed him for third place among outfielders on Thursday in a race that is going down to the wire.

Damon's teammate Manny Ramirez (1,697,604) and the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero (1,605,068) are running first and second in the balloting at the position.

The last time the Mariners didn't have a starter in the Midsummer Classic was in 1989, when outfielder Jeffrey Leonard was selected as a reserve.

First baseman Richie Sexson and third baseman Adrian Beltre both rank fifth at their respective positions.

Sexson has been selected to two Midsummer Classics, going 0-for-1 in the 2002 game played at County Stadium in Milwaukee. The following year at U.S. Cellular Park in Chicago, he went 0-for-2.

Another candidate is closer Eddie Guardado, a two-time All-Star with the Twins (2002-03), has been practically automatic saving games this season.

Heading into the final days of the selection process, he was 19-for-20 in save chances and leading in the Rolaids Relief Man Award standings, holding a narrow lead over Twins closer Joe Nathan and Orioles left-handed closer B.J. Ryan.

Fan voting continues at MLB.com through 11:59 p.m. ET, June 30.

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 and 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.

Immediately following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show, fans will have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a three-day period.

There will be two ways for fans to vote for the 2005 All-Star Final Vote -- online at MLB.com or on the go from cell phones. Fans can simply text the word "VOTE" to 69652 (MYMLB) and be instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 99 cents a ballot, they'll have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can pre-register for the mobile ballot now.

The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will conclude on Wednesday, July 6 at 8 p.m. ET. The two winners will be announced on ESPN and MLB.com shortly thereafter.

Concluding the All-Star balloting process, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 76th All-Star Game via the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com. The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

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