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Two Rays are All-Star starters for first time

Two Rays are All-Star starters for first time

For the first time in team history, the Rays had two players elected by the fans to the All-Star Game.

Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria were elected as starters at their respective positions, left field and third base, it was announced Sunday during Major League Baseball's All-Star Selection Show.

"It's a step that we continue to move forward," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

In addition, left-handed hurler David Price was selected through the Player Ballot. Worthy candidates Jeff Niemann, who has arguably been the team's most consistent pitcher, and closer Rafael Soriano were not selected Sunday. Soriano, however, was added to the roster Wednesday to replace an injured Mariano Rivera.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB.com, MLB Network and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

Crawford received 2,235,597 votes to finish third among AL outfielders and hold off Nelson Cruz (2,011,770), of the Rangers. Crawford earned his first start in the Midsummer Classic and his fourth All-Star appearance overall.

Crawford, of course, won MVP honors for last year's Midsummer Classic played in St. Louis. He started the AL's go-ahead rally with a fifth-inning single and later made the play of the game when he leaped at the left-field wall to deny the Rockies' Brad Hawpe of a go-ahead home run in the seventh.

Crawford has been voted in by the players twice (in 2004 and '09), and he had another appearance when Tigers manager Jim Leyland named him to the team in '07. But this year is the first time the Rays speedster has been elected to start by the fans.

Longoria is beginning to look like a staple at third base for the American League after the fans elected him the starter for the second consecutive season.

In 2009, Longoria become only the second player in Rays history to be selected as a starter by the fans; Jose Canseco was selected to be the AL's designated hitter in 1999, but he could not play due to a back problem. Longoria also made the team through the Final Vote in 2008, his rookie season.

"It's cool, it's awesome, I'm really happy about [the news] today," Crawford said. "[I'm] just really at a loss for words because that was always something so far-fetched.

"It means a whole lot, means the fans are watching you. They vote for who they want to see. I'm just glad that I can have the kind of game the fans want to see."

One thing is for sure with Crawford, being a part of the Midsummer Classic is something to treasure.

"I don't ever get tired of it," he said. "That's something I could do every year. It's just a nice time. There's nothing bad about it at all."

Longoria received 3,977,935 votes to become an All-Star for the third time -- in all three of his Major League seasons -- including back-to-back elections by fans. Longoria joins an elite club as a repeat starter at the hot corner for the AL; since 1970, the only other AL third basemen who repeated as fan selections are Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (1971-74), George Brett (1976-86), Wade Boggs (1987-96) and Cal Ripken Jr. (1997-2001), along with Alex Rodriguez (2004-08).

"It always feels good to know that the fans appreciate you enough to vote you into the All-Star Game," Longoria said. "Hopefully, I get to play this time."

Longoria did not play in last season's game because of an infection to his right ring finger.

Longoria hails from Downey, Calif., which is in close proximity to Anaheim.

"Going to any All-Star game is special, no matter what," Longoria said. "But this one is extra special."

Price has come into his own this season, dominating games for the Rays and looking like the pitcher he was forecast to become when Tampa Bay made him the No. 1 pick of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

Maddon told Price when he arrived to the visiting clubhouse at Minnesota's Target Field on Sunday morning.

"I just said, 'Thank you,' " Price said. "Obviously, it was a good thing to hear -- started my day off right. I was very grateful. It's not just me. I'm representing the Rays. I couldn't have done it without these guys."

The 24-year-old entered Sunday as the AL leader in ERA at 2.42 and in wins with 11. He hurled his first shutout -- allowing just four hits -- on April 25 against Toronto. The shutout capped a month in which he compiled a 2.20 ERA, which was eighth best in the AL.

When the Rays had a tough June, Price continued to pitch well, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.18 ERA. He reached 10 wins faster than any pitcher in Tampa Bay history.

Surprisingly, it's not pitching in the game that Price most looks forward to from his coming experience.

"Not so much pitching in the game but probably just sitting there during the Home Run Derby, that will probably be the coolest part," Price said. "I'll have to go get a recorder, a video or something like that. I think that will probably be the coolest part."

Given Price's performance from the first half, he has a good chance to be named the AL starter.

"It would be awesome," Price said. "Only two people get to start this game each year, so that would be a great honor."

Should Price be named the starter, the Rays will have three players in the starting lineup, the possibility of which Crawford found pleasing.

"I don't think anybody ever thought you'd see that," Crawford said. "But it would be nice to see three Rays starting."

Niemann said that he was disappointed.

"But I needed more wins probably, something you can't really control," Niemann said. "It would have been nice and great."

Bill Chastain 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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