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New A's are All-Star hopefuls

New A's are All-Star hopefuls

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First baseman Jason Giambi, left fielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Orlando Cabrera headline the list of eight Athletics who appear on the 2009 All-Star ballot released Wednesday afternoon, but perhaps the least heralded of the eight has enjoyed the most success thus far.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 4-for-4 on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, added two hits Wednesday -- including his first homer of the year, a three-run shot -- and leads Oakland regulars with a .327 batting average.

A 25-year-old from Hawaii who played for Cal-State Fullerton's 2004 College World Series champs, Suzuki was known primarily for his defense while working his way through the Minors.

"He had decent numbers at the plate, but he was so advanced defensively that you heard more about that part of his game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "I hate to say he's exceeded expectations because we've always thought he'd be a real good player in the Major Leagues, but it's probably fair to say he's excelling a little earlier than we expected."

A second-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, Suzuki made his big league debut in June 2007 and was handed the keys to the pitching staff when Oakland traded starting catcher Jason Kendall to the Cubs a month later.

"What he's done is extremely impressive," A's pitching coach Curt Young said. "I don't deal with him on the hitting side of things, where he's obviously doing well, and on the pitching side of things, he's everything you hope to have in a catcher."

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.

Voting also can be done at the ballpark; at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, in-stadium balloting opens May 4 and ends June 24.

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.

Giambi, who returned to the A's this season after spending the previous seven season with the Yankees, will be looking for his sixth All-Star selection. During his first tour with Oakland, he was named to the AL squad twice, starting a run of five consecutive seasons (2000-04) in which he was so honored.

Holliday, acquired in an offseason blockbuster trade with the Rockies, would be a first-time AL All-Star if he's selected. He was named to the NL team three times with Colorado, and if he makes it to this year's Midsummer Classic, which will be held July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, it'll mark his fourth consecutive selection.

Cabrera, signed as a free agent during Spring Training, has long been a big-name player but has never been an All-Star. Nor have any of the other four Oakland players on the new ballot: third baseman Eric Chavez, second baseman Mark Ellis and outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Jack Cust

The A's haven't had more than one player named to the All-Star team since 2004. Last year's lone honoree was right-hander Justin Duchscherer, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list and recovering from exploratory arthroscopic elbow surgery.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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