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Abreu gets nod from fans in NL outfield

Abreu gets nod from fans in NL outfield

PHILADELPHIA -- It has long been thought that Bobby Abreu could roll out of bed and get four hits.

True or not, the player Mike Lieberthal calls "genetically gifted" is rolling way to his second straight All-Star Game, and first as a starting outfielder. He said that he'll also take part in the Century 21 Home Run Derby.

"This feels good," said Abreu, flashing a big smile. "I'm very happy. I want to thank the fans. They are the ones that helped make this dream come true."

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The All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, 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 online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

It's technically the second time Abreu has been voted in by fans, as he won the Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote last season, a five-player showdown that selected the last player.

There would be no question in 2005, and this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen Abreu play. The Phillies' right fielder and No. 3 hitter is having a spectacular season, as he's on pace to set a career high in homers and could also eclipse his RBI total. His .314 average is his highest since 2000.

The thing with Abreu has always been the lack of attention he generates. Never mentioned as one of the league's elite players -- in large part because the Phillies haven't made it to the postseason -- Abreu's performance this season was simply too difficult to ignore.

"We thought he deserved [to start] for a long time," said general manager Ed Wade. "Maybe the watershed moment was last year when he was recognized by the fans for that last spot. People began to recognize the quality of player that we've had for a while here."

Abreu has been one of the most consistent National League hitters since becoming the every day right fielder in 1998. Beginning in 1999, he reeled off six straight seasons with at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases -- a feat matched only by Bobby Bonds, Barry Bonds and Willie Mays.

"He's a special hitter," said manager Charlie Manuel. "He's definitely deserving. I'm very proud of him. It's good that he's getting national recognition."

Only a late push by St. Louis' Jim Edmonds kept Abreu from being the leading vote-getter among NL outfielders. Edmonds finished with 2,826,306 votes to Abreu's 2,532,742. New York's Carlos Beltran, in his first year playing in the NL, finished third.

After a slow start, the 31-year-old Abreu slugged his way to a .396 average in May, including a stretch in which he homered in nine of 10 games. That performance earned him Player of the Week honors, and later, the Player of the Month award.

All-Star Game 2005

He's playing inspired baseball this season, and credits that to a more rigorous offseason conditioning program than in previous years. That, plus the motivation of making it to another All-Star team.

Abreu had such an "amazing" time participating in Houston last year that he wants to make this an annual event.

And he doesn't take his selection by the fans lightly.

"It gives more confidence to myself," he said. "It makes me want to work harder every day. I don't want to disappoint the fans that voted for me. I'll keep working. To me, that's something."

So for the second straight year, he won't be able to film any commercials or return to his house in Miami or Venezuela during the break, activities he typically schedules.

Abreu will be joined on the NL squad by fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, who was named as a reserve. Last year, Abreu struck out in his lone All-Star at-bat.

One locker over from Abreu, enthusiasm was shared by Ugueth Urbina, a close friend and another fellow Venezuelan.

"He's so happy right now and I'm happy for him," said Urbina, who's been an All-Star once in each league. "He's a brother to me. I'll be rooting for him in the Home Run Derby."

Having pitched in Comerica Park for 1 1/2 seasons, Urbina also had some advice.

"That ballpark is huge," Urbina said. "He should hit it to right field. That's the short side. He's a lefty, so I like his chances."

While taking the Home Run Derby would be an impressive feat, Abreu will just enjoy his second experience -- and maybe get a hit this time.

"I struck out last year," Abreu said. "I just want to do my best and enjoy the moment."

Ken Mandel 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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