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Which Tampa Bay Rays will join manager Joe Maddon at All-Star Game?

NEW YORK — As the manager of the Rays, Joe Maddon typically would tout as many of his players for All-Star consideration as he could.

But as manager of the American League team as well, there isn't much he can say.

Knowing he'll have — along with MLB officials — the responsibility to deal with the jigsaw puzzle of filling out the 32-man roster after the fan voting and the player voting and considering injuries, usage limitations and the requirement that every team be represented when the squads are announced July 5, it's a different story.

The way it looks now, there should be three or four Rays players meeting Maddon and his coaches in St. Louis for the July 14 game.

3B Evan Longoria is a lock. He surprisingly has been the leading vote-getter in the AL for the past three updates (after winning the extra-man voting last year), and unless Alex Rodriguez's fatigue is from staying up all night voting for himself, Longoria should end up being the starter.

LF Carl Crawford deserves to go for a third time, but it's not as certain. He's having a spectacular season but doesn't seem to have the national name recognition. He has been fourth in the fan voting behind Boston's Jason Bay, Texas' injured Josh Hamilton and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki but could get in on the player vote (the next three after the fans' starters). Hamilton's injury could help.

From there, it gets more interesting. Maddon has repeatedly referred to SS Jason Bartlett as one of the best players in the AL this season and would love to see him rewarded.

But Bartlett's not going to beat out Derek Jeter in the fan voting and seems unlikely to get the player vote. Plus he spent three weeks on the DL. Most likely, Maddon would have to name him.

And then there's the curious case of Benjamin Zobrist. The infielder/outfielder doesn't even appear on the ballot but has emerged as one of the surprises of the season and truly could help win an All-Star Game given his versatility.

A case could be made for LHP J.P. Howell, too, but the Rays probably wouldn't, preferring he get the four days of rest.

There's so much involved that what Maddon wants to do and what he gets to do might be disparate. Our guess as of today is Longoria, Crawford and Bartlett are there.

Which Tampa Bay Rays will join manager Joe Maddon at All-Star Game? 06/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 7:46am]
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