The Week Ahead: Stuff the All-Star ballot box

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Do you think Chris Davis should start at first base for the AL in the
All-Star game? Would you like to see Manny Ramirez in the NL outfield?
Well you better get busy, because time is running out on your
ballot-stuffing opportunities.

The cutoff mark for voting for the July 14 game in St. Louis is Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.
That gives you four full days to get Willie Bloomquist a spot in the AL
lineup. If it doesn’t happen, it’s all your fault, because you won’t
find an election this easy to influence outside of Iran.*

*This is not true: Everyone is allowed to vote 25 times, which
really only serves to inflate the total numbers. Now if only, say,
Pirates fans were allowed to vote 25 times, and everyone else only
once, then we would have a scandal. (pick a LaRoche brother, any
LaRoche brother!)

So log on to MLB.com and let your voice be heard. Rock the vote!

From a more serious angle, there are some interesting races in the final days of voting. (You can see the AL numbers here), and the NL numbers here.)

In the AL, you have the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira with a lead of less than
40,000 votes over the Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis at first base. And
Texas’ Ian Kinsler with about a 60,000-vote lead on Boston’s Dustin
Pedroia at second base.

The NL appears to be more settled, with the closest race being
between Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano for the third outfield spot.

The aforementioned Ramirez, currently on suspension and starring for
the Inland Empire 66ers, is languishing in 6th place among NL
outfielders. Though he does have the most votes of any current member
of the California League. So he’s got that going for him, which is
nice.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Rays at Blue Jays, June 29-July 1: The great Roy
    Halladay returns from the DL for Toronto on Monday. Both of these teams
    are solid, but neither one has been able to mount an attack on the Red
    Sox in the AL East. This series could give us an idea if it will happen
    at all.
  • Angels at Rangers, June 29-July 1: The
    Angels, riding a five-game winning streak, have finally take over first
    place in the AL West. Now Texas has a chance to take it back.
  • Brewers at Cubs, July 2-5:
    If ever there was a chance to throw the simmering Cubs’ clubhouse into
    a full-blown meltdown, the Brewers have it with this four-game series.
  • Mets at Phillies, July 3-5:
    For all their struggles and injuries the Mets still enter the week only
    two games behind their NL East rivals. Can they make up ground?
  • Mariners at Red Sox, July 3-5:
    The Mariners should have been preparing a fire sale. Yet here they are,
    entering the week just three games out of first place despite dealing
    with a host of injuries and a two-man offense (Ichiro and Russell
    Branyan). Will they still be there after this week?

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:08 p.m. ET: Mets at Brewers (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Giants at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Tigers at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Phillies (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Padres (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: All-Star selection show (TBS)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Brewers at Cubs (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Rays at Rangers (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.