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Cards send three of a kind to Pittsburgh

Cards send three of a kind to Pittsburgh

ST. LOUIS -- Fans didn't penalize Albert Pujols for missing a couple of weeks with an injury. Fellow players didn't think Chris Carpenter's relatively low win total should count against him. And Phil Garner has certainly seen enough of Scott Rolen to know what the Cardinals third baseman has to offer.

All three men will represent St. Louis in the 2006 All-Star Game, set for July 11 in Pittsburgh. Pujols was voted in by the fans, Carpenter by the players, and Rolen was a selection by the National League squad's manager and the league office.

Pujols was the leading vote-getter in all of Major League Baseball, receiving 3,418,555 votes -- nearly 800,000 more than any other National League player. Rolen finished second among third basemen in fan voting, about 310,000 votes behind David Wright.

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All three have enjoyed fine seasons, but no selection may be more remarkable than that of Rolen, who missed nearly the entire second half of 2005 with a shoulder injury. He was voted as a starter by fans in 2005, but skipped the game.

"Last year, the fans selected me, but I don't think my numbers constituted me being in the game, though I'm thankful and grateful to the fans," Rolen said. "This year, the fans selected David, so you kind of have to earn your way on the team a little more this year, and coming back from surgery, it's a nice honor."

It's the fourth straight appearance and fifth overall for Pujols, and Rolen's fifth selection in a row. Carpenter made his first appearance a year ago, when he was the National League's starting pitcher in Detroit.

Rolen had been voted in by the fans in each of the past four seasons, but this year he was edged out by Wright. He will be one of four third basemen on the NL squad, along with Wright, Florida's Miguel Cabrera and Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez. Rolen entered Sunday with the league's fifth-best batting average at .341, and ranked second in doubles with 25. He is a six-time Gold Glover.

"I'm just excited for him and for Chris just to be there," Pujols said. "It took him a whole season, a whole year to get ready. Just to see him swinging the bat the way he is now, he definitely deserves to be there."

Pujols, the reigning NL MVP, was out for 19 days with a strained right oblique muscle, but still ranks among the league leaders in numerous offensive categories. He entered Sunday's game second in the league in home runs with 26, second in RBIs (68), ninth in runs (57) and first in slugging percentage (.704).

It will be Pujols' fourth time in an All-Star starting lineup, and his second time as the starting first baseman. He started in the outfield in 2003 and as the designated hitter in 2005 when he was beaten out at first base by Derrek Lee. Pujols was also selected to the team, but did not start, as a third baseman in his rookie season of 2001.

"My numbers were there," Pujols said. "Just to be in there and be a part of the All-Star Game, it's an honor. I thank the fans for that."

Carpenter, who won the Cy Young Award last season, has gone just 6-4, but rates near the top of the league in ERA (2.85, third) and strikeouts (88, 11th). He's been betrayed by low run support and some bullpen foibles, or he would likely have several more victories.

The 31-year-old right-hander allowed two hits but no runs in his only inning in last year's All-Star Game. He may not appear this time around, as he is scheduled to pitch Sunday in Houston -- two days before the Midsummer Classic.

"It feels good," said Carpenter. "It's exciting. Especially when you get voted in by the guys that you play against, it's an outstanding honor. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

The All-Star Game, to be held at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on Tuesday, July 11, at 7 p.m. CT, 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 extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

Matthew Leach 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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