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Rays' Corey Dickerson named All-Star starter at DH

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a three run home run in the fourth inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson (29) and catcher Jesus Sucre (45) score.
Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a three run home run in the fourth inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson (29) and catcher Jesus Sucre (45) score.
Published Jul. 3, 2017

BALTIMORE — The Rays for months have marveled at Corey Dickerson's masterful strokes at the plate, their awe evolving, perhaps unfairly, into expectation as he quietly posted some of the best numbers of American League hitters.

But first opposing pitchers, then the media and finally the fans took notice as Dickerson completed a steady climb and won election to the AL team as the starting DH for the July 11 All-Star Game.

"That was the best part about it," Dickerson said Sunday. "To me emotionally, for me and my family, to win the fan vote was even more special, even though it would have been special to just make the team in general.

"But winning the fan vote showed how much the fans care, and how much it is a fan's game. It feels like that hard work is appreciated, and I'm very thankful."

Dickerson could be joined in Miami by a teammate. First baseman Logan Morrison, who ranks second in the AL with 24 homers, was named to the five-man ballot for the 32nd and final spot on the roster, with voting at mlb.com running through 4 p.m. Thursday.

Rays manager Kevin Cash also is likely to be there. AL/Cleveland manager Terry Francona confirmed on the ESPN announcement show he plans to have him as a coach, though the broken foot Cash sustained Sunday could be an issue.

Being elected by the fans to start as a player for the small-market, attendance-challenged Rays is a significant accomplishment, just the fifth time it has happened in 20 years. Dickerson joins Jose Canseco (1999), Evan Longoria (2009, 2010) and Carl Crawford (2010).

"I think it's tremendous," Cash said. "Good support from our fans. It's good to see our players getting some recognition."

Dickerson, 28, said batting leadoff early in the season might have limited his appeal since he wasn't driving in many runs, but a move to second in the order helped him move up in the voting, surpassing Seattle's Nelson Cruz.

"It was really hard at first probably for fans to see; what I was doing at the leadoff spot, it was a lot harder to get recognition," he said. "I think it just kind of progressively showed the people."

Unhappy with fairly solid numbers (.255, 24 homers, 70 RBIs, .762 OPS) in 2016 after being acquired from Colorado, Dickerson did some things about it, most noticeably dropping 25 pounds during the winter.

He also was more comfortable having experienced the various adjustments in playing in a new league, against tougher pitchers, at sea level and primarily as the DH, and he returned to his past form of hitting the ball to leftfield.

Even with a 1-for-18 skid, Dickerson ranks among the AL leaders with a .321 average, 104 hits, 33 multihit games, 182 total bases, 41 extra-base hits and more.

"He's handled all those challenges exceptionally well this year," Cash said. "The way he has hit the ball, the approach he has taken this year, the power … he puts pressure on the opposing pitcher. When he's feeling good at the plate, he's as dangerous as anybody in baseball with the fact he can beat you to all parts of the field."

Morrison, 29, a former Marlin whose return as an All-Star would be noteworthy, seemed more disappointed not to make the roster than excited to still have a chance. Others on the ballot are Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.

"It's, I don't know, if you're not first you're last type of deal," he said. "That's kind of what it feels like. You're not on the team but you might be, so it's a little weird. I'm not a politician; I'm just here to play baseball and help the Rays win baseball games. It'll be an honor if I make it. If not, oh well."

Morrison is the sixth Ray to appear on the final-vote ballot. Longoria won it in 2008 but lost out in 2016; Crawford (2005), Carlos Peña (2009) and Ben Zobrist (2011) also came up short.