O's All-Star starting hopes need final push

O's All-Star starting hopes need final push

O's All-Star starting hopes need final push
BALTIMORE -- The plucky Baltimore Orioles have surprised the baseball world, storming out to a 41-31 record that puts them two-and-a-half games back from the New York Yankees in the American League East race.

But they still need some help in the All-Star chase, as O's center fielder Adam Jones has slipped from fourth to fifth among AL outfielders in the final voting tally released on Monday in advance of Sunday's Selection Show, which will be televised nationally on TBS.

Jones, who trailed Toronto's Jose Bautista by roughly 35,000 votes for the final starting outfield spot in last week's results, slipped behind Texas' Nelson Cruz, who has made a significant push with 2,681,019 votes to Jones' 2,633,259. Bautista has 2,773,442 and trails the Yankees' Curtis Granderson and fellow Ranger Josh Hamilton, who has an astounding 7,310,824 votes. The 26-year-old Jones -- signed to an extension earlier this season -- leads the Orioles in home runs (19) and RBIs (40) and was batting .300 through 72 games.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Matt Wieters remained in third place at their respective positions, with injured outfielder Nick Markakis 13th in outfield voting.

To help promote voting and make sure the Orioles -- who are trying to send more than one player to the All-Star Game for the second time in 12 years -- are well represented, the club has launched several incentive programs.

Those efforts include designating Thursday's game versus Cleveland as "Vote Orange T-Shirt Thursday." The first 10,000 fans age 15 and over in attendance will receive a T-shirt and the opportunity for fans who vote at least 20 times online (up to a maximum of 25) and select the Orioles as their "favorite" or "other favorite" team to be entered to win an All-Star Game jersey autographed by an Orioles' All-Star representative.

Additionally, those who show they have voted the maximum 25 times on their cell phones at any Oriole Park Fan Assistance Center will receive an "I VOTED" sticker and a voucher for $5 off a future ticket purchase -- good for up to eight tickets. Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled Sunday on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show and baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2012 All-Star Game Final Vote on MLB.com. This year's All-Star Game will be played at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10, with extensive online coverage for the week of festivities on MLB.com.

Baltimore -- led by a surprisingly strong pitching staff -- is expected to have multiple representatives at that game, with closer Jim Johnson and starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen making strong cases. The club has not had more than one All-Star since sending four players in 2005, including two starters in Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada.

Johnson has been one of the best closers in the Majors this season and would be the O's first All-Star reliever since George Sherrill in 2008. He entered Monday with 22 saves -- good for second most in the Majors behind only Cleveland's Chris Perez -- and has a 1.10 ERA, having allowed four earned runs over 32 2/3 innings.

Hammel entered Monday sixth in the AL in ERA among starters with a minimum of 10 games, and is coming off two of his best outings of the season. The 29-year-old is 8-2 with a 2.61 ERA and has had teammates buzzing about his chances in Kansas City, as the players' vote -- along with AL manager Ron Washington's opinion -- will factor into the ultimate decision.

"I think he should be a strong consideration," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Hammel held the Nationals to one unearned run over eight innings Friday night. "I'm biased. I get to see him pitch every fifth day. I can't imagine a guy having a much better year than he's having."

Chen could also be considered, although his case isn't quite as strong as Hammel. The 26-year-old lefty -- a Taiwan native signed out of Japan -- has been superb in his first Major League season, going 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 14 starts.

This year's fan voting doesn't end with the All-Star Game selections. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.