'Locked in' Braun eyeing seventh ASG nod

'Locked in' Braun eyeing seventh ASG nod

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun's bid for a seventh Midsummer Classic began Sunday, when he homered on the same day he debuted among eight Brewers players on the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot launched by Major League Baseball.

Braun was selected last season as an injury replacement for the Cardinals' Matt Holliday, Braun's first All-Star nod since 2012. He was voted to the National League's starting lineup in five straight years from 2008-12 and is back to putting up worthy numbers. With two more hits in Sunday's 8-5 win over the Phillies, including his fifth home run, Braun remained among the league's top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, RBIs, hits and slugging percentage.

"I feel good," Braun said. "Swing is in a good place, bat path is in a good place. But more than that, I'm healthy; healthiest I've been in a while."

Braun found a solution last season for a nerve issue in his right hand, which had sapped his power, but he played the final weeks with a bad back. He underwent surgery last October for a bulging disc, and so far in 2016, he has not missed any games because of injury. Braun has taken only one game off.

"He's locked in, there's no question," manager Craig Counsell said. "At the end of Spring Training, he homered in his last three games before the season started, so it was in there in the spring. You know, he's a good hitter. He's had good at-bats. He's crushed the mistakes that guys have made to him. He's done a good job."

There were no surprises on the ballot in terms of Brewers names. Former All-Stars Jonathan Lucroy (catcher) and Aaron Hill (third base) were eligible, with first baseman Chris Carter, second baseman Scooter Gennett, shortstop Jonathan Villar and outfielders Domingo Santana and Ramon Flores.

Browsing the ballot

The other side: In the American League, the most fascinating race might be at third base, where reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays and Manny Machado of the Orioles own some of the big leagues' most gaudy early-season numbers. But Brewers fans with rebuilding on their brain might have a soft spot for the Royals' Mike Moustakas, an improved player who benefited from Kansas City's patience over recent years. He entered Sunday fifth in the AL in total bases and tied for fourth with 11 extra-base hits.

Tip of the cap: Sure, his numbers may be partially Coors Field-fueled, but considering the way he plays defense, it is difficult to overlook the Rockies' Nolan Arenado in the NL race at third base. Arenado's 17 RBIs as of Sunday morning trailed only the Nationals' Bryce Harper, and his seven home runs trailed only Harper and teammate Trevor Story.

A rising star: The puns were well-earned by Story, the 23-year-old rookie with a chance to make the NL All-Star team at shortstop. His early-season home run binge put Story on the national radar, and he entered Sunday sixth in the league in OPS.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 times.

Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.

Following the announcement of the 2016 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 87th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.