Double-play duo are All-Star bound

Double-play duo are All-Star bound

DENVER -- Inside the clubhouse, they've been viewed as All-Stars for years, even if they didn't get the necessary votes. No longer is that an issue.

Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, who comprise one of the most feared middle infields in Major League Baseball, are headed to the 2008 All-Star Game to represent the Marlins on the National League squad.

One of the most dynamic offensive players in the game, Ramirez earned high praise in the process, as he became the second Marlins player ever voted into the starting lineup by the fans. The Florida shortstop edged out Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy for the nod after the results were announced on Sunday.

"Well deserved," Marlins left fielder Josh Willingham said. "Both of them had great first halves. With Hanley, you have homers, runs, stolen bases. Good for Hanley.

"It definitely would have been a little bit of a disgrace if both of them didn't go."

Not since Gary Sheffield was the people's choice in 1993 as the National League third baseman, has a Marlins player received more votes than any other at his respective position.

"I'm looking forward to going over there and having fun," said Ramirez, a native of the Dominican Republic who grew up watching the All-Star Game. "I want to thank everybody, the fans, the players, and my teammates. They helped me out, and everything."

What separates Ramirez's selection from Sheffield back in '93 is the fact that in that particular year a majority of Sheffield's votes came while he was playing for the Padres. The Marlins acquired the power hitter from San Diego in a deal that included Trevor Hoffman on June 24 of that year.

Ramirez and Uggla both broke in with the Marlins in 2006. While Ramirez is headed to the his first All-Star Game, Uggla will make his second trip. As a rookie in 2006, Uggla was voted in by his peers -- the players and coaches.

Philadelphia's Chase Utley was selected as the NL starter at second base by the fans, but Uggla finished second in the players-coaches vote, making him an automatic selection.

"We're going to have fun," Ramirez said. "I'm happy for him. He deserves it."

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised 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, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

Either Ramirez or Uggla, or both, may be invited to participate in the Home Run Derby. Ramirez has 21 homers on the season while Uggla has 23. They both should receive serious consideration.

The two All-Stars say they'd be interested if the league asked them.

"Yeah, why not? To be with Uggs. Me and him, we can go to the finals," Ramirez said of a possible Derby showdown with Uggla.

To his teammates, Ramirez joked about facing Uggla in the finals.

"I did this morning," he said. "Everybody was laughing."

An issue with Uggla could be a sprained left ankle that has kept him out of the lineup since June 28. He did some light jogging at Coors Field on Sunday before the series finale with the Rockies.

Uggla hopes to be ready to pinch-hit in a day or two, and be back starting at second base before the end of the week.

The slugger, who has 81 homers in 2 1/2 big league seasons, would welcome a Derby invitation.

"Yeah, definitely, if they want me to do that," Uggla said. "It's probably every kid's dream. I grew up watching it."

Even though he has missed a week, Uggla is swinging the bat with more authority in his recovery process.

"As soon as I can cut it loose [running], I'll be all right," Uggla said.

Because Ramirez is a leadoff batter, it makes him a strong possibility to be the first hitter in the Midsummer Classic, should NL manager Clint Hurdle of the Rockies decide to put the Marlins shortstop at the top of his lineup card.

On the season, Ramirez has six first-inning leadoff homers, and he already holds the team record with 21 for his career.

For Ramirez, the All-Star Game will provide him with an opportunity to showcase his skills to an international audience.

"Those two guys deserve it from our team, and I hope they do well," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Those in the game have recognized how productive Ramirez is, yet he hasn't received the sweeping acclaim of many of his peers who perform in more high-profile markets.

"Special" is a word many within the game use to describe Ramirez, an impressive 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who combines speed with power.

He offers production across the board, from batting average to home runs, hits, stolen bases and runs scored.

Ramirez is batting .304 with 106 hits, 18 doubles, three triples, 76 runs scored and 21 stolen bases.

Uggla, meanwhile, has a .289 average with 23 homers, 24 doubles, 58 RBIs and 57 runs scored.

"That's an awesome feat for Hanley for the first time, he deserves to be the starter," Marlins center fielder Cody Ross said. "I think if Uggla doesn't get hurt -- Utley is having a great year -- but for me [Uggla] is a starter. It's his second time.

"They are our caballos. They are our horses. Both of them deserve to be there."

Ross also wants to see both Ramirez and Uggla in the Derby.

"I get to see it every day in BP," Ross said. "I hope both of them are in it so everyone else can enjoy what we get to see every day."

The Marlins acquired Ramirez as part of a blockbuster deal with the Red Sox following the 2005 season. Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell went to Boston in that trade, which has panned out for both teams.

In 2006, Ramirez was named National League Rookie of the Year after he hit .292 with 17 homers, 59 RBIs, 119 runs scored and 51 stolen bases.

A couple of days ago, he collected his 500th MLB hit, making him the fastest Marlins player to reach that plateau. Juan Pierre collected his 500th hit with the Marlins in 398 games on June 28, 2005. Ramirez did it in 397 games.

After his Rookie of the Year season, Ramirez put to rest any speculation of a sophomore slump. In 2007, he batted .332, with 29 homers, 212 hits, 81 RBIs and a team-record 125 runs.

The Florida shortstop was the National League Player of the Month in June, when he hit .298 with 10 home runs, 13 RBIs, while he scored 27 runs.

A couple of months ago, Ramirez also signed a six-year contract extension for $70 million, which keeps him tied to the Marlins through the 2014 season.

As for this season, Ramirez and Uggla are two of the biggest bargains in the game. Ramirez is making $439,000 this season, compared to Uggla earning $417,000. Neither has an All-Star bonus clause in his '08 contract.

A feel-good story, Uggla overcame long odds just to make it to the big leagues. A Rule 5 Draft pick from Arizona in December 2005, Uggla had to make the Marlins in Spring Training of 2006 or else he could've been sent back to the Diamondbacks.

In recent days, Uggla said he sensed he would be named to the team.

"You never want to expect anything, but it's obviously nice to be selected by my peers again," Uggla said. "That really means a lot to me. I'm happy for Hanley. It's going to be a lot of fun."

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