Molina, Pujols inch closer to All-Star start

Molina, Pujols inch closer to All-Star start

ST. LOUIS -- Less than two weeks remain until the announcement of the rosters for the July 14 All-Star Game and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and first baseman Albert Pujols continue to lead the fan voting at their positions.

Molina has been widely considered the best defensive catcher in the league -- if not all of baseball -- but has picked up his production at the plate this season. The first-time Gold Glove winner in 2008 is hitting .291 with five home runs and 23 RBIs but has been one of the toughest to strike out in all of baseball, fanning just 15 times all season.

It would be the first All-Star Game appearance -- let alone the first All-Star start -- for Molina, who leads a slightly changed top five from a week ago. The Braves' Brian McCann is second, followed by the Astros' Ivan Rodriguez, The Brewers' Jason Kendall and Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies.

Pujols is one pace to have arguably the best season of his career despite the lack of protection behind him in the lineup. The Cardinals slugger leads the Major Leagues with 26 home runs and 69 RBIs. Despite having twice as many intentional walks as anyone in baseball, Pujols has held a .326 batting average as well.

The two-time NL MVP leads a talented group of first baseman in the NL. The Phillies Ryan Howard is second, followed by the Brewers' Prince Fielder, the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez and the Astros' Lance Berkman.

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 10:59 p.m. CT.

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 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.

Outfielders Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick are eighth and 11th respectively in outfield voting but would need one of the largest late surges in voting history to jump into the top three. Ludwick was an All-Star in 2008 but has struggled to find his form from a year ago since coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago.

Pujols is looking to make his sixth All-Star start and his eighth overall appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.