Ichiro moves into AL's starting outfield

Ichiro moves up

Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle's streaking outfielder, has streaked right into position to join the American League's starting outfield for the 77th All-Star Game.

But the five-time All-Star faces a tough stretch run to hold off New York center fielder Johnny Damon in one of several races bound to go down to the voting wire -- 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29 for the final mouse click.

Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez kept relentless heat on leader Jason Varitek of the Red Sox, and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano faces a slightly milder threat from Boston's Mark Loretta.

And the wildest scramble shapes up as a race for overall top-vote honors, a fight waged among voting fans of three teams and on two coasts.

The latest results of online and paper voting, announced Tuesday afternoon, revealed that Ichiro, riding an 18-game hitting streak, overtook Damon for the final berth in the American League's starting outfield. A monster week of 319,000 votes swelled Ichiro's total to 996,148.

But Ichiro has a battle on his hands. Damon, still hoping to join three of his Bombers teammates in the starting lineup on July 11 in Pittsburgh, trails Suzuki by a mere 39,553 votes.

The other two-thirds of the starting outfield appears set, with a pair of frontrunners who overcame New York shortstop Derek Jeter in the intensifying race for the overall vote lead.

The Angels' Vladimir Guerrero, who last week still ran 6,000 votes off the lead held by Jeter since balloting began, opened up a 61,000-vote lead with a total of 1,518,276. Boston's Manny Ramirez (1,477,626) continues to run a close second.

Jeter (1,457,637) maintains a healthy lead among shortstops over Baltimore's Miguel Tejada (1,073,827). The four-way scramble for high honors also includes his teammate, runaway third-base leader Alex Rodriguez, whose overall fourth-place total of 1,374,155 leaves him within 144,121 of Guerrero's lead.

Varitek's lead shriveled to slightly more than 27,000 over Pudge Rodriguez, whose 208,000-vote week jacked his take to 803,964.

Yet the most significant development among catchers may have been the breakthrough of Joe Mauer. Minnesota's remarkable batsman, who leads the Majors with a .380 average, gained enough support to crack the leaderboard at fifth place, with a total of 464,161 votes.

While there was scattered movement in the standings at other positions, Mauer is the only newcomer among the leaders, which include the top 15 outfielders and the top five at all other positions.

A pair of conventional designated hitters, Boston's David Ortiz (1,257,595) and Jason Giambi of the Yankees, continued to run 1-2 among first basemen.

While Cano's (796,204) lead over Loretta more than doubled to 74,000, both have to be wary of Chicago's rallying Tadahito Iguchi (670,547). Seattle's Jose Lopez (384,890) jumped into third at the position, and he now leads Placido Polanco of the Tigers by 32,000.

A-Rod's widening lead over Mike Lowell is by far the biggest on the board. Rodriguez has doubled up the Boston player's 650,861 votes, leading by nearly three-quarters of a million.

Meanwhile, Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus continued an impressive late-but-no-cigar drive, jumping into third place with a total of 474,506.

Fans can continue to vote up to 25 times with the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites.

The All-Star Game rosters will be released at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 2. The announcement will reveal the 16 elected starters, as determined by fan balloting, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star team managers -- Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox and Phil Garner of the National League champion Astros -- and Major League Baseball.

Fans once again will have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The 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. Fans added Roy Oswalt (NL) and Scott Podsednik (AL) to the rosters with the Final Vote last summer.

For the fourth consecutive year, the league that wins the All-Star Game will receive home-field advantage during the World Series. The AL has won back-to-back-to-back Midsummer Classics since that provision was added prior to the 2003 World Series, and eight straight overall.

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