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As voting winds down, races heat up

As voting winds down, races heat up

Three days left, and so much could change.

That's the way the voting for the 76th All-Star Game -- which will be played Tuesday, July 12, at Comerica Park in Detroit -- is shaping up. It's going down to the wire, with many positions in both leagues up for grabs as online ballot-stuffers get ready for one last stand.

The old-school method of punching holes in the cards and depositing them at your neighborhood ballpark has given way to the new-age practice of getting on MLB.com and voicing your opinion. Cyber-choosing only has 72 hours of life left.

So what can we expect to change from last week's updates in the voting totals?

Well, in the American League, some things probably won't change.

As far as starters go, designated hitter is a lock for the Red Sox's David Ortiz, the Orioles' Miguel Tejada looks to have the first-string spot at shortstop all sewn up over the Yankees' Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez is in the driver's seat at third.

Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Rangers' Mark Teixeira jump ahead of the Yankees' Tino Martinez at first base. Teixeira's brilliant play of late, coupled with Martinez's recent slump, has the young Ranger poised to make a real race out of it as the seconds tick away.

The AL outfield situation has been getting a bit more crowded lately, with Boston's Johnny Damon surging to fourth place and making the top three -- Damon's teammate, Manny Ramirez, plus the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki and Vlad Guerrero of the Angels -- a pretty clustered bunch.

While Brian Roberts' strong start at second base for the Orioles has him in a good spot to start his first Midsummer Classic, don't count out Texas' Alfonso Soriano, last year's All-Star MVP, who's creeping up behind Roberts.

Remember that online voting can change a lot of things.

A record 10.6 million online ballots represented more than 70 percent of the overall count in 2004, and fans can cast their votes up to 25 times with the Ameriquest All-Star Online Ballot, which is available exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 club sites. Online balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30.

In the National League, some surprises could be on the horizon.

Take, for example, the ongoing battle for starting honors at first base between Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and the Cubs' Derrek Lee. In the last balloting update, Pujols led with 1,283,047 votes, but every day, Lee continues to put up Triple Crown numbers is another day he gains on Pujols.

He's cut Pujols' lead by over 300,000 votes in the last two weeks, and still has three days to go.

Catcher (Mike Piazza, Mets), second base (Jeff Kent, Dodgers), third base (Scott Rolen, Cardinals) and all three spots in the outfield (Carlos Beltran, Mets; Jim Edmonds, Cardinals; Bobby Abreu, Phillies) seem to be done deals, but shortstop remains a battle.

Fans have realized that the Cubs' Nomar Garciaparra is not a contender because of injury and have turned their attention to the Dodgers' Cesar Izturis. As of the last balloting update, Izturis was leading with over 677,000 votes.

But scrappy Cardinals cult hero David Eckstein was hanging in there with over 611,000 votes and could make things interesting if St. Louis fans hit MLB.com with abandon and vote for their guy.

And even if your favorite player doesn't quite make the cut in the next three days, you still have a chance to get him into the game, because from July 3-6, fans will once again be able to participate in the Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote, which determines the final position player for each League's 32-man roster.

Three days left and plenty of starting spots in the balance.

Who will you decide on?

Doug Miller 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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