Youkilis heads Sox's All-Star candidates

Youkilis heads Sox's All-Star candidates

BOSTON -- When you finish third in the American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, as Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis did in 2008, you are no longer in the running to be omitted from the All-Star ballot.

So unlike 2006 and '07, when designated hitter David Ortiz was placed on the All-Star ballot as the Red Sox's first-base representative over Youkilis, Big Papi is the man left off this time around.

Because the game will be played in St. Louis under National League rules, there is no designated-hitter slot on this year's ballot.

Ortiz fully supported Youkilis being on the ballot.

"We talked about it," Ortiz said. "He's the guy that plays out there [on defense]. They always come to me [for input] because I've been here longer. This is like the Army. The guy who has the longer [service] time, that's the guy who has the first choice. But I have no problem with that. He deserves it, man. He's been a hell of a player since he's been there."

Youkilis and Ortiz both made the AL team as starters last year, though Ortiz couldn't participate because he was on the disabled list with a left wrist injury.

For the fourth season in a row, Youkilis is off to a red-hot start at the plate.

"He just gets better and better," Ortiz said. "He's been improving himself more and more and more, and that's what the game is all about. The guy wakes up and he could get a hit. It's crazy. That's good. We need guys like that around here."

This year's Midsummer Classic will be played on July 14 at Busch Stadium. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

Ballots will be handed out at every Red Sox home game starting Saturday until June 21.

Youkilis, always a fan favorite at Fenway, figures to get plenty of support.

"He always puts together consistent at-bats," Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell said. "This is a streak that's ridiculous. He knows the count, he knows what he's looking for, and when he gets his pitch, he doesn't miss it."

Dustin Pedroia, the AL Most Valuable Player in 2008, will try to join teammate Youkilis on the right side of the AL infield for the second year in a row.

The Red Sox are also represented on the ballot by catcher Jason Varitek, shortstop Jed Lowrie, third baseman Lowell and outfielders Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew.

Varitek, Boston's captain since 2005, has been an All-Star three times. Lowell made the NL squad three times for the Marlins and the AL squad once for the Red Sox. Drew was the Most Valuable Player of last year's All-Star Game, belting a homer to help fuel the AL to victory. Bay is in the running for his third All-Star appearance, though this would be his first in the AL.

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