Izturis needs fans' support

Time is running out to vote for Izturis

With online All-Star Game voting ending Thursday, Dodgers Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis is losing a tight battle for the starting spot on the National League team.

David Eckstein of the St. Louis Cardinals passed Izturis in the voting on Thursday. With voting at Dodger Stadium closed, Dodgers fans must turn to the Internet and MLB.com to show their support for the 25-year-old Venezuelan, who would become the first Dodgers shortstop to start an All-Star Game since Bill Russell in 1980 and the first to make an All-Star team since Jose Offerman in 1995.

Izturis has been the best all-around player on the Dodgers this year. He has been the glue that has held together a remodeled infield. He has been the offensive catalyst, hitting above .300 the entire season as the switch-hitting leadoff batter.

He's ranked among the league leaders all season in hits and multiple-hit games, and he has been particularly successful batting in the clutch, hitting nearly .500 in "close and late" situations, which are defined as games that are tied, with a one-run differential or with the potential tying run on deck.

He's done this in only his fourth Major League season and it comes on the heels of receiving his first Gold Glove. Not listed among vote-leaders at the position in the first week of balloting, Izturis leaped to the lead last week.

The Dodgers have had only six All-Star shortstops in their history, led by Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese, who appeared in 10 Midsummer Classics, including nine consecutively from 1946-54.

Maury Wills ranks second among Dodgers shortstops with five appearances and was named Most Valuable Player of the second All-Star Game played in 1962.

Russell appeared in three All-Star Games, Leo Durocher was in two as a Dodgers shortstop and Bill Grabarkewitz and Offerman made one appearance each.

Should Izturis be voted into the starting lineup and Jeff Kent also retain his lead at second base, it also would mark the first time since 1980 that the Dodgers started both middle infielders. That year, Russell was the shortstop and Davey Lopes the second baseman in the game, which was played at Dodger Stadium.

Kent (1,334,686) continues to lead in voting among NL second basemen, followed by Mark Grudzielanek of St. Louis, Todd Walker of the Cubs, Craig Biggio of Houston and Marcus Giles of the Braves.

The Dodgers' Hee-Seop Choi (301,250) is fifth among first baseman, trailing Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Derrek Lee of the Cubs, Doug Mientkiewicz of the Mets and Jim Thome of the Phillies.

In the outfield, disabled Dodger Milton Bradley slipped one place to 8th and J.D. Drew fell to 13th.

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 and 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.

Immediately following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show, fans will have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a three-day period.

There will be two ways for fans to vote for the 2005 All-Star Final Vote - online at MLB.com or on the go from cell phones. Fans can simply text the word "VOTE" to 69652 (MYMLB) and be instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 99 cents a ballot, they'll have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can pre-register for the mobile ballot now.

The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will conclude on Wednesday, July 6 at 8 p.m. ET. The two winners will be announced on ESPN and MLB.com shortly thereafter.

Concluding the All-Star balloting process, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 76th All-Star Game via the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com. The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

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