Halos' Hunter closing in on All-Star start
Center fielder moves up one spot to fourth in fan voting
ANAHEIM -- Torii Hunter is inching closer to a starting role in the Major League All-Star Game in St. Louis.
Hunter, the Angels' eight-time Gold Glove winner, moved up one spot to fourth among American League outfielders, trailing Boston's Jason Bay, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Texas' Josh Hamilton. Hunter moved past Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, and with a late surge, he could claim a spot that he clearly merits on performance.
Hunter's partner in the Angels' outfield, Bobby Abreu, also moved up, from 15th to 13th, in the fans' balloting. No other Angels player is in contention for a starting role, but third baseman and leadoff catalyst Chone Figgins figures to get serious consideration as a backup for his superb play offensively and defensively.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 8:59 p.m. PT.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint 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 Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.
The All-Star Game, on July 14, will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
While making a series of game-saving, game-changing catches with that Gold Glove in center, risking serious injury crashing repeatedly into walls, Hunter has been the Angels' most consistently productive offensive force.
He leads the team in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases and is on a pace to establish career highs in all of those categories.
"I'd hate to think where we'd be without Torii," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's doing everything. From defense to the batter's box to running the bases to what he does in the clubhouse. I think it's an understatement to say he's an important part of the club. This guy's special -- and we're glad to have him."
As for Figgins, out of the running at third base with Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria leading, Scioscia said, "Chone has been as good as any leadoff hitter in the league. He's also playing great defense at third base."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland referred to Figgins last season as "one of the most valuable players in the game" because of his skills and versatility.
Making an All-Star Game roster at a position occupied by Longoria and the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, however, is a daunting challenge for Figgins and all the other AL third basemen.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.