Rookies showing well in All-Star vote
Soto, Fukudome among leaders; Soriano heads outfield
CHICAGO -- The Cubs could have two rookies in the All-Star Game.
Catcher Geovany Soto and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome rank among the leaders in the early All-Star balloting by fans, released Tuesday.
Soto, who was the National League Rookie of the Month in April, batting .341 with five homers and 20 RBIs, leads all National League catchers, and has the edge over Atlanta's Brian McCann and St. Louis' Yadier Molina.
"He's hitting around .300, he's got nine home runs, 35, 36 RBIs," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of his rookie catcher. "He's had a really good first third [of the season]. He plays on a team that's been competitive, and he plays in a ballpark with 42,000 people who recognize his contributions to this team, so they vote for him. I can understand that."
Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome rank first and second among NL outfielders. Fukudome, 31, was a four-time All-Star in Japan, getting selected in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Even though the Cubs right fielder played nine seasons in Japan, he is technically considered a rookie.
"It speaks volumes for the confidence they have in themselves," Chicago second baseman Mark DeRosa said of Soto and Fukudome. "I think Geo got a taste last year and kind of figured out the fact that he was pretty good. People gravitate to him because he's passionate about what he does. He's got a confidence about him.
"Fukudome, he was an MVP over in Japan. All the guys that come over here from Japan have a lot of success. I've been saying all along, a lot of his success is due to how fundamentally sound he is. The guy plays the game flawless from start to finish. If he goes 0-for-4 or 4-for-4, you'd never know it. Everything about his game is pretty perfect."
The Cubs have not had a rookie chosen for the All-Star Game since Sam "Toothpick" Jones in 1955. The only other Cubs rookies to make the All-Star event were catcher Toby Atwell in 1952 and Don Johnson in 1944.
"It's wow," Soto said of his reaction at the news. "I'm really amazed. It's my first year. It's so amazing. There's still a lot of baseball left until the All-Star Game, and we have to focus and win games."
He's got the support of his teammates.
"They took their time with Geo, which I think is good for him," Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee said. "He had a monster year last year in the Minor Leagues, and it transferred over to the big leagues."
Lee trails Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals in the early fan balloting for NL first basemen. Lee has had a tough time passing Pujols. How can he do it?
"Put about another 100 points on my average," Lee said, laughing. "I'd love to go. Is it my No. 1 concern? No. I'd love to go. Yankee Stadium, I can't think of a better place to have an All-Star Game than that."
DeRosa is third to Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Houston's Kaz Matsui, while third baseman Aramis Ramirez is third in his category, trailing Atlanta's Chipper Jones and the Mets' David Wright.
"I try not to think about it," DeRosa said. "I'm honored to be in the top four. There's a lot of guys at my position. Obviously, Chase Utley, Dan Uggla come right to mind with the first halves they're having. These guys have 15, 16 homers. Those things are great, and they come with having a good team and being represented for doing a good job."
Ryan Theriot is fourth among NL shortstops behind Florida's Hanley Ramirez, Houston's Miguel Tejada and the Mets' Jose Reyes.
Soto, Fukudome and Theriot are on the ballot for the first time. Soriano is vying for his seventh straight trip to the All-Star Game, while Lee has been selected twice, and Ramirez has been chosen once, back in 2005.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, being held at Yankee Stadium in its final season, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD; and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
The Midsummer Classic will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 tilt.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2, at 10:59 p.m. CT. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on Sunday, July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
Soriano and Lee represented the Cubs at the 2007 All-Star Game, the first time the team had two players since Lee and Ramirez went in 2005.
In his first trip as a Cub, Soriano went 1-for-3 with a ninth-inning, two-run homer off Seattle's J.J. Putz, making him the first player to homer in the Midsummer Classic for three different teams. Soriano also did so in 2002, with the New York Yankees, and in 2004, with the Texas Rangers. He's the second player in history to homer for both the American League and National League All-Star teams, joining Frank Robinson.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.