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06/14/05 12:00 PM ET

Pirates could use a little All-Star love

Ward, Mackowiak among deserving candidates

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, earning consecutive series wins against the Marlins, Braves, Orioles and Devil Rays before big crowds at PNC Park.

Despite the team-wide improvement, the Bucs are still not getting much support at the All-Star ballot box.

For the third straight week, there were no Pirates players positioned among the top five vote-getters at first base, second base, third base, shortstop or catcher, nor were there any Bucs ranked in the top-15 among outfielders.

Perhaps it is time for fans to begin a write-in campaign for two worthy Pirates candidates who are not listed on the ballot: first baseman Daryle Ward and outfielder/third baseman Rob Mackowiak.

Ward, who has filled in regularly since starter Craig Wilson went down with a finger injury in early May, entered the week with 11 home runs and a team-leading 38 RBIs. Ward has been particularly hot of late, batting .343 with 12 RBIS in 10 June games.

An even better case could be made for the versatile Mackowiak. Since May 3, Mackowiak has led the Majors with an outstanding .410 batting average, while driving in 28 runs and scoring 23 more.

Paper balloting will conclude at PNC Park on June 22. However, fans will continue to have the opportunity to cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30.

The 2005 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, which will air live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 3. This special program will feature the announcement of the 17 elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star team managers -- Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox and Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals -- and Major League Baseball.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.