PHOENIX -- Chase Utley has been the most popular second baseman in the National League for five years.
That popularity will be put to the test.
Utley has not played a single game this season because of patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation in his right knee. The Phillies hope he is back in the lineup before the end of May, but nobody knows for sure. Utley, though, is on the NL's All-Star ballot this season, which means he has a chance to be elected as a starter for the sixth consecutive year in a game that's slated for July 12 at Chase Field.
He's joined on the Phillies' ballot by first baseman Ryan Howard, shortstop Jimmy Rollins, third baseman Placido Polanco, catcher Carlos Ruiz and outfielders Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco.
Victorino, who's never been elected off the main ballot, said it's just an honor to be on it this year. Victorino, though, was a Final Vote electee to the NL team in 2009.
"You've got to do well to be on one of those," he said before the Phillies played the D-backs on Tuesday night. "Anytime you get elected by the fans it's an honor. Obviously, guys who go to the All-Star Game are very deserving. Who doesn't want to go play in one? That means you're doing good things."
Despite being out all month, could Utley, a five-time All-Star, still win a spot? It would not be unprecedented. Fans voted Mike Schmidt a starter in 1989, despite retiring in May.
"We're hoping to have [Utley] back as soon as possible," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said on Tuesday. "He can still come back and have a great season. He's very popular, and I think he's earned that. He's a tremendous player. Right now, we miss him in our lineup. Everywhere we go he's a very popular big league player. That's why he's on the ballot and why people ask about him."
Of course, Schmidt retired as arguably the greatest third baseman in baseball history. But Utley has been one of the most productive second baseman in the NL for years.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint until June 30 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2011 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 3. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.
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 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint.
The All-Star Game 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.
Phillies fans can vote at Citizens Bank Park from April 29 to June 10.