Utley, Ibanez and Howard Get All-Star Nods

Chase Utley easily won the balloting among National League second basemen and Raul Ibanez was voted into his first All-Star Game by the fans. Then, manager Charlie Manuel picked Ryan Howard for the NL club, leaving Shane Victorino to fight for a spot in balloting by the fans.

Albert Pujols was the fans' pick. Adrian Gonzalez was the players' pick.

But, as always, Ryan Howard was Charlie Manuel's pick.

Manuel has been in the Phillies' dugout for each of Howard's 202 career home runs, and without his cleanup-hitting first baseman, Manuel doesn't believe he would have a World Series ring or the privilege of managing the National League team in the All-Star Game on July 14 in St. Louis

Thus, in what came as no surprise Sunday, Manuel used one of his eight selections to choose Howard, a St. Louis native, to play in his second career All-Star Game and first since his 2006 MVP season. The NL team features four first basemen: Pujols (Cardinals), Gonzalez (Padres), Howard and Prince Fielder (Brewers). Howard and Fielder were picked by Manuel.

"I chose Ryan Howard because I felt like he deserves to go, and also, I felt like he's our player, he's my player, and my players are why I'm managing in the All-Star Game in the first place," Manuel said. "He's my guy. I've always said that."

Howard was one of three Phillies players named to the NL team, and the contingent may grow this week. Second baseman Chase Utley and left fielder Raul Ibanez were voted as starters in fan balloting, and center fielder Shane Victorino is listed on a five-player "final vote" ballot. Through Thursday, fans can vote online for the final player on each league's roster.

"One of the inside jokes around here is that people always look at my numbers in St. Louis, so that could've been a factor or what not," Howard said. "There's not too many opportunities where you get to play in your home town in an All-Star Game, so I think everybody's definitely excited."

Asked if he'll compete in the Home Run Derby on July 13, Howard said, "If they ask me to, I'll probably hop in there and do it. I think it would be fun to do it in my hometown."

For a fourth consecutive season, Utley will be the NL's starting second baseman after getting 5,027,029 votes in the fan balloting. Ibanez was selected to his first All-Star Game by receiving 4,053,355 votes, second among outfielders behind only the Brewers' Ryan Braun (4,138,559).

And if he wins the final vote, Victorino will go to his first All-Star Game in his fourth full major-league season. In balloting of players, managers and coaches, Manuel said he voted for Victorino, who is batting .300 and leads the team with 96 hits and 13 stolen bases.

Victorino also has a chance to make the team as an injury replacement for Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, who likely won't play in the All-Star Game because of a bruised right knee.

"It's one of those things where we leave it up to the Philly faithful, and I think I have a good chance," Victorino said. "I've got faith in the fans. It's up to the fans now. It's going to be fun."

News and Notes...

  • Jimmy Rollins declined to speak to reporters after Sunday's game, but lately, his play is doing all the talking. Rollins belted his club-record 30th career leadoff home run - against Mets ace Johan Santana, no less - and is 7-for-15 (.467) with a .567 on-base percentage since breaking his career-worst 0-for-28 slump last Thursday night in Atlanta. Rollins' primary adjustment has been reverting to a "two-tap," a timing mechanism in the stride before he swings.
  • Brad Lidge hasn't had a smooth season. After being bothered by a balky right knee since mid-April and blowing six saves in his first 20 chances, Lidge finally went on the disabled list June 9. Since his return, though, he has been nearly perfect. Lidge notched back-to-back saves Saturday and Sunday against the Mets, throwing a total of 27 pitches in the two outings and not allowing a base runner.

    "Yeah, it's been a while," Lidge said Saturday after notching his first save at home - and his first 1-2-3 inning - since May 31. "I'm real happy about that. I just want to keep building on each outing and hopefully put together a real good run here."

  • Joe Blanton outdueled Mets ace Johan Santana Sunday and improved to 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his last eight starts after posting a 7.11 ERA in his first eight. Blanton's biggest moment came in the sixth inning with the Phillies clinging to a 1-0 lead. He issued a leadoff walk to fleet Luis Castillo, then a bunt single to Santana, and after Daniel Murphy drew a one-out walk, he faced dangerous David Wright with the bases loaded. "I was just trying hopefully to get something on the ground for a double play," Blanton said. Sure enough, he uncorked a sinking, 91-mph fastball that Wright rolled for a 4-6-3 twin killing. Just like he planned it.
  • He said what?
    "He was stubborn. But when you hit rock bottom, usually you figure it out." - Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson on Jimmy Rollins' initial reluctance to take his suggestion and alter his stride during his career-worst 0-for-28 slump.


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