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Votebook: Outfield sees new entrants

Votebook: New faces in outfield

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Ichiro Suzuki and Jason Bay have moved into position to be starting outfielders in this year's All-Star Game.

Suzuki's rise into the top three vote-getters among American League outfielders doesn't come as a great surprise. The Mariners right fielder has been elected by fans to start four of his previous five All-Star Game appearances, and from 2001-03, he received more votes than any other Major Leaguer.

Bay's rise, while fitting, is a little more surprising. It was just three weeks ago when he wasn't even listed among the top 15 vote-getters among National League outfielders. But a recent push moved the Pirates veteran into the third spot and in position to be one of the starters for the July 11 game that will be played at his own PNC Park.

"To be third with that many votes in a market like Pittsburgh says a lot about the people going out and voting," Bay told MLB.com on Monday. "I'm flattered. It's unbelievable."

As the voting currently stands, Los Angeles' Vladimir Guerrero (1,518,276 votes), Boston's Manny Ramirez (1,477,626) and Suzuki (996,148) would serve as the AL's starting outfield. New York's Johnny Damon trails Suzuki by fewer than 40,000 votes, and he could receive a final push that would allow him the opportunity to start for the second straight season.

The New York Mets' Carlos Beltran (1,129,865 votes), Washington's Alfonso Soriano (1,084,936) and Bay (1,069,986) are currently the top three vote-getters among NL outfielders. But this race could turn a couple of times in the final week of balloting. Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. (1,032,102) and Atlanta's Andruw Jones (1,017,023) trail Bay and Soriano by fewer than 65,000 votes.

Fans can cast votes up to 25 times with the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites. Online balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29.

Before this week's results were released, Jones was receiving more votes than any other NL outfielder and his total was surpassed only by St. Louis' Albert Pujols among all NL players. But with the Braves' recent decline, he's moved into the fifth spot, well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Despite their struggles this month, Guerrero and Ramirez have continued to get support from the fans. Suzuki's recent surge has been aided by the fact that he's hitting .467 in June.

Some of the AL outfielders who may deserve more attention are Chicago's Jermaine Dye, Toronto's Vernon Wells and Texas' Gary Matthews Jr. Wells and Dye rank fifth and sixth, respectively, in the balloting. As for Matthews, who ranks second among AL outfielders in batting average (.339) and fifth in OPS (.947), he isn't listed among the top 15 vote-getters.

Dye leads all AL outfielders with 20 homers and a 1.048 OPS. Just behind him in the OPS category are Ramirez, Wells and Toronto's Alex Rios, who continues to lead AL players in write-in votes.

The Senior Circuit's most overlooked player is Colorado's Matt Holliday, who leads all NL outfielders with a 1.016 OPS and a .352 batting average. Despite this, he still doesn't rank among the top 15 vote-getters among NL outfielders.

Another NL player worthy of some consideration is Milwaukee's Carlos Lee, who currently ranks eighth, just ahead of San Francisco's Barry Bonds. Lee's 58 RBIs trail only Jones (61) among NL outfielders, and his 23 homers rank second only to Soriano, who leads all Major League outfielders with 25 home runs.

Mark Bowman 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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