07/05/09 6:15 PM ET
Ibanez, Utley earn All-Star starting nods
St. Louis native Howard chosen as reserve for NL club
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
Left fielder Raul Ibanez hopes this is the start of one.
Utley and Ibanez are headed to the All-Star Game on July 14 in St. Louis as starters after winning the fan vote at their respective positions. First baseman Ryan Howard joins the team as a reserve, and center fielder Shane Victorino has a chance to make the roster in the Final Vote, where fans vote for the final player on the roster.
"There's no many opportunities where you get to play in an All-Star Game in your hometown," said Howard, who grew up outside St. Louis. "I think everybody is definitely excited and can't wait for it."
This is Utley's fourth consecutive All-Star Game and his fourth as a starter. This is Ibanez's first Midsummer Classic in a 14-year career that began in 1996. Howard makes his second All-Star team, his first coming in 2006.
"It's pretty exciting," Utley said. "This is the fourth time I've participated in the All-Star Game, and I've had a great time so far. And hopefully I'll continue to do that. I've had a lot of fan support here in Philadelphia and across the country, which is always nice. Hopefully [mamager] Charlie [Manuel] can rally us and we can win one for the National League."
Utley has established himself arguably as the best second basemen in the Majors. He's been an NL Silver Slugger winner from 2006-08. He has received votes for the NL MVP award each of the previous four seasons, including twice finishing in the top 10 in 2007 and '08.
Utley leads NL second basemen in home runs (18), RBIs (55), slugging percentage (.559), on-base percentage (.426), runs (56), total bases (156) and walks (50).
The last NL second baseman to start four consecutive All-Star Games was Craig Biggio (1995-98). Ryne Sandberg started eight consecutive games from 1986-93.
Ibanez has had a good Major League career, although he played most of it in Seattle and Kansas City, where he received little attention compared to Philadelphia.
"It's definitely a great feeling," Ibanez said. "I feel very blessed to have been voted in. The fact that I was playing on this club with all the great players, that definitely helped me to be a part of this."
Ibanez is hitting .312 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs, but has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 18 with a strained left groin. Ibanez has been improving, and he is hopeful he will be back in the lineup before the break. He begins a rehab assignment Monday with Double-A Reading.
If Ibanez continues to progress and he returns before the break, he is likely to play in the All-Star Game.
Howard has been one of baseball's best run producers in recent seasons. He is hitting .255 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs. He ranks tied for third in the league in RBIs.
Howard said if he is asked to participate in the Home Run Derby, he probably do it.
"I think it would be fun to do it in my hometown," he said. "It would be nice."
Manuel has first basemen Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Howard on his roster.
"I chose Ryan Howard because I feel he deserves to go," Manuel said. "And also I feel like he's our player. My player. I feel like our players are the reason why I'm managing in the All-Star Game in the first place. We won the World Series. My players put me there."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.