NEW YORK — Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was named Sunday in fan balloting to play in this summer’s Major League Baseball All-Star game for the seventh consecutive year. Los Angeles Dodgers closer Takashi Saito was elected for the first time.
|Dodgers closer Takashi Saito was chosen to appear in his first MLB All-Star Game. Saito is fourth in the National League in saves with 23.
They are the only two Japanese players chosen for the All-Star game, which will be played July 10 in San Francisco.
“This is my seventh year as an All-Star consecutively and when I played in Japan, I played in seven consecutive All-Star Games, as well,” Ichiro said. “So it has been a goal of mine to do the same here and to be able to accomplish that makes me very happy.”
Ichiro, who garnered 2,341,409 votes, was selected for two straight years in fan voting.
Hideki Okajima, a Boston Red Sox pitcher, is among five candidates for one player to be chosen in final Internet voting among the 32-player roster for each of the AL and the NL.
Boston Red Sox rookie right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka and New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui were not chosen.
Saito, in his second year in the majors, will play in the All-Star game for the first time after being chosen on manager recommendation.
On Sunday, Barry Bonds overcame a 119,000-vote deficit in the final days of balloting and finished 123,000 ahead of the Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano to claim the third and final starting outfield spot for the NL.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Bonds said. “It just means more ’cause I’m at home. This is my town. This is my house. You can’t say enough about being at home. It’s great.”
At 42, Bonds will be the oldest player to start an All-Star game. He tops Roger Clemens, who was 41 years, 11 months at the 2004 game in Houston, his hometown.
“This is the one I’ll remember all time. This is the one I’ll remember forever,” Bonds said.
Bonds, heading to his 14th All-Star game and 12th as a starter, was the lone Giants player chosen for the game in San Francisco — his first trip since 2004. Five home runs from tying Hank Aaron’s record of 755, Bonds is beloved in San Francisco but booed in most other cities following years of suspicion that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
“One guy will be a lot bigger than everybody else. It’s his hometown,” said Cincinnati’s Ken Griffey Jr., the top NL vote-getter. “He gets to have all the fun stuff and the press conferences. I just get to play.”
With the game in his home park, Bonds figures to be the focus all week. He could be one of the sluggers picked to participate in Monday night’s Home Run Derby.
Soriano wasn’t bothered that fans voted Bonds to start over him. Soriano still made it as a backup.
“Going to the All-Star game means a lot to me, especially my first time with the Cubs,” he said.
The Boston Red Sox and AL champion Detroit Tigers led all teams with five players selected. Boston is sending first baseman David Ortiz, third baseman Mike Lowell, outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitchers Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon.
Detroit had three players elected to start for the first time since 1983 (second baseman Placido Polanco, outfielder Magglio Ordonez and catcher Ivan Rodriguez). Pudge, a 14-time All-Star, was elected to start for the 12th time. Polanco is a first-time All-Star.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who pitched a no-hitter this season, was picked for the AL staff, and shortstop Carlos Guillen is a reserve.
The New York Mets (center fielder Carlos Beltran, shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Billy Wagner and third baseman David Wright) tied the Milwaukee Brewers (closer Francisco Cordero, first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop J.J. Hardy and pitcher Ben Sheets) for the most players picked in the NL. The Brewers hadn’t had four All-Stars since 1983.
Fans elected the starters, except for the pitchers, and a record 18.5 million votes were cast before Thursday’s deadline.
Alex Rodriguez, with 3.89 million votes, led fan voting for the first time. A-Rod was picked for his 11th All-Star appearance, his 10th as a starter.
“It’s hard to think about that right now,” Rodriguez said Sunday after the Yankees lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
Griffey jumped past Beltran in the final days and topped the NL with 2.99 million votes, the eighth time Griffey has led his league. Griffey is going to his 13th All-Star game, all as a starter.
The rest of the AL starting lineup has the Yankees’ Derek Jeter at shortstop, A-Rod at third, and the Los Angeles Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero and Ichiro in the outfield.
Fielder and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin were elected as first-time All-Stars in the NL. Philadelphia’s Chase Utley topped voting at second base.
While fans picked the starters, player voting determined eight reserves and eight pitchers in each league. St. Louis’ Tony La Russa and Detroit’s Jim Leyland, the All-Star managers, each chose four position players and three pitchers.
Voting runs through Thursday on MLB.com for the final roster spot in each league.