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Tampa Bay Rays' Sam Fuld begins All-Star Game campaign

MINNEAPOLIS — OF Sam Fuld, still a bit stunned to be included on the American League All-Star ballot, insisted he hadn't cast a vote for himself. But he figured his wife, Sarah, had and his parents, friends and other relatives had been on their computers already.

"I'm sure my wife did it right away. I don't blame her. She's trying to get the word out," Fuld said. "We're underdogs here. There's a billion people in New York."

Fuld figures to have the support of his home state, New Hampshire, but as he said: "That doesn't guarantee anything. We've got to work on Maine and Vermont and all of New England. Then I've got a chance."

The Internet world is also lending its support. A VoteSamFuld account was opened on Twitter, and the Rays potentially will make a push.

"I think you're going to be surprised by how many people actually vote for him," manager Joe Maddon said.

"For two reasons: He's playing really well. And you look at his numbers, they're pretty darn good. And you watch every night on ESPN, you see the highlight film, etc. But beyond that, I think there's a lot of average Americans that can identify with this fella, and how he plays the game also, I think, matters. He's hard not to like. … He's everyman."

Maddon also repeated his assertion that Fuld, whose last All-Star experience was in the Florida State League in 2006, has played as well defensively as former Ray Carl Crawford.

"I have so much respect for Carl as an outfielder," Maddon said. "I never thought I'd be saying this one month into the season, but we haven't lost anything defensively in leftfield."

ROUGH TIME: INF Elliot Johnson has had quite a stay in Minneapolis. On Monday's off day, he had to take his wife, Nicole, to a hospital because of a stomach virus, then take care of their 1½-year-old son, Blake, as she rested. Then he got sick with the virus Monday night, throwing up from about 11 p.m. on, and Tuesday morning took a taxi to the emergency room.

He felt better Wednesday but not well enough to make a scheduled start.

"It's been a bummer of a trip," Johnson said.

PITCHING IN: The Rays decided to have RHP Jeff Niemann work the night game of today's doubleheader because of his struggles in day games (5-6, 5.44 ERA vs. 22-13, 4.00 at night), so RHP Jeremy Hellickson will work the matinee. … Because RHP Wade Davis was pushed to Wednesday's game, the Rays need a Sunday starter. RHP Andy Sonnanstine is the likely choice even after working a 13-pitch ninth Wednesday. That could change if he's needed in relief again; then the Rays would look to the minors, with RHP Alex Cobb (3-0, 2.05 ERA at Triple-A Durham), and LHP Alex Torres (1-2, 1.83) possibilities.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Hellickson will have a cheering section today, with about 40 relatives (parents, grandparents, cousins) and friends expected to make the 3½ -hour drive from Des Moines, Iowa. He has had similar support in Kansas City and Detroit. "I think anywhere within probably eight hours, they'll make it," he said.

REHAB REPORT: 3B Evan Longoria worked out with the Rays on Wednesday, then headed to Montgomery, Ala., where he will start his rehabilitation assignment tonight, with plans to rejoin the Rays on Tuesday. Longoria, out since April 2 with a left oblique strain, is scheduled to play four of the five days. … LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) makes his third rehab appearance tonight, moving up to the Class A Stone Crabs and starting tonight in Port Charlotte, scheduled for one inning.

FOR THE KIDS: The Twins had another reason for rescheduling Tuesday's game for tonight rather than July: 5,000-6,000 tickets sold to 120 groups, many from schools, that were more easily accommodated tonight.

MISCELLANY: The Rays hung a Lightning shirt in their dugout after seeing the final score. "We're very proud of the boys,'' Maddon said. … Tonight's game moves to 970-AM because of the NFL draft. … The Twins put ex-Ray Delmon Young on the disabled list with an oblique strain. … The Rays will give out vouchers after Sunday's game good for free parking Tuesday and Wednesday in certain lots for cars with four or more passengers.

Tampa Bay Rays' Sam Fuld begins All-Star Game campaign 04/28/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 2:17am]

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