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All-Star selections

Rays' Kazmir, Navarro make All-Star team

Dioner Navarro

Dioner Navarro

...fast facts

Rays All-Stars

LHP Scott Kazmir: Elected by players; 7-3, 2.63, 75 Ks in 72 IP, .203 opponents BA

C Dioner Navarro: Selected by manager Terry Francona; .318 BA, first in AL in caught-stealing (38.1) and fielding (.998) percentage

ST. PETERSBURG — Given how they've played, with the best record in the majors, they seemed to deserve more than two All-Stars, fewer than six teams and the same as 11 others.

But given how the game of selecting the teams is played, the Rays were pleased Sunday to have pitcher Scott Kazmir and catcher Dioner Navarro chosen for the AL squad, with rookie third baseman Evan Longoria in the online voting contest for the final roster spot for the July 15 affair.

It is the second time in their 11-season history, and first since 1999, they've had more than the obligatory lone selection.

"I'm just happy there's more than one," Kazmir, 24, said. "There's a lot of guys here that really deserve to be a part of it."

Kazmir, who missed the first five weeks with an elbow injury, was elected on the players, coaches and managers' ballots, earning the fifth and final starter's spot with a 7-3 record and 2.63 ERA. He was similarly voted in for his 2006 appearance and joins Carl Crawford as the Rays' only two-time stars.

"That's a big thing, just to know that your peers really respect your game and voted you in like that," Kazmir said. "That means the most to me."

It also may have been the only way Kazmir would have made it. Because he is scheduled to start Sunday, he said he likely won't pitch in the All-Star Game (and definitely won't pitch much), so it's unlikely AL/Boston manager Terry Francona would have added him to the roster.

Navarro, in a way, came further. At last season's All-Star break, he was hitting .177 with one homer and 13 RBIs, his work behind the plate was poor and his future with the team was being questioned, at least from the outside.

Now he's hitting .318 (with four homers and 33 RBIs), ranks first in the AL in caught-stealing (38.1) and fielding (.998) percentage and was chosen by Francona, who may have been motivated when his own catcher, Jason Varitek, who is having a poor season, was named to the team on the player's ballot. Navarro, 24, will go as a deserving All-Star, the product of improved play and increased dedication.

"I feel proud of myself, the job I've been doing behind the plate and at the plate, and the communication I have with my teammates and everything together," he said. "It's a whole package."

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the selection was a testament to Navarro ("He worked extremely hard this offseason") and "a lot of people" in the organization.

Longoria is competing for the final spot, in online voting through 5 p.m. Thursday on mlb.com, with the White Sox's Jermaine Dye, the Yankees' Jason Giambi, Kansas City's Jose Guillen and Baltimore's Brian Roberts. He said it was "awesome" to be on the list and figured his mom in California has already been voting heavily, and that he would, too.

"It doesn't really matter how you get in, if you're an All-Star, you're an All-Star," he said.

Both manager Joe Maddon and Friedman said they thought the Rays had other deserving candidates but appreciated the complexities of the process, which includes starters voted by the fans, and most reserves and pitchers by the players.

"We need to recognize that they have the best record in baseball, and we tried to do that," Francona said in New York. "We can't correct voting. You know, at some point, if their fans want them to be on the team, they're going have to step up and vote."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays' Kazmir, Navarro make All-Star team 07/06/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2008 10:00pm]
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