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Martinez among All-Star contenders

Martinez among All-Star contenders

CLEVELAND -- After missing two and a half months of the '08 season following elbow surgery, Victor Martinez has returned to the Indians' lineup this year and made an immediate offensive impact.

Entering Wednesday's action, Martinez was tied for the American League-lead in multi-hit games (eight), was tied for third in hits (23), was third in total bases (41), fourth in average (.397), tied for fourth in homers (five) and tied for seventh in OPS (1.170).

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"He's an emotional leader for us," manager Eric Wedge said. "The time he missed last year bothered him. You knew he'd come back with a belly full of fire, and it's just starting to play out."

Now it's up to the voters to decide if Martinez should return to the AL All-Star roster, too.

The ballots for the 2009 Midsummer Classic, which will take place at St. Louis' Busch Stadium on July 14, were released Wednesday, and Martinez is one of eight Tribe position players represented. The others are outfielders Grady Sizemore, Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo, first baseman Ryan Garko, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and third baseman Mark DeRosa.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.  

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.

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.

Along with Martinez, Travis Hafner has returned to the Tribe lineup after missing most of last season with right shoulder weakness. But with the All-Star Game being held in an National League city, the man known as Pronk has not returned to the ballot. The only place Hafner, whose 1.051 ERA ranked 14th in the AL, could have even been considered for inclusion is at first base, and even that's a stretch.

"I might have five or six friends who would write me in," Hafner joked.

At least Hafner can vote for his buddy Martinez, whose early numbers are certainly worthy of All-Star consideration. Martinez has made the AL squad twice in his career -- in 2004 and in '07.

The popular Sizemore, who was batting .259 with five homers, 14 RBIs and a .989 OPS, has a strong chance of making the team for the fourth straight year. No other Indians players on this year's ballot have been selected to the Midsummer Classic.

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

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