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Bryant in line for ASG start; Rizzo falls to 2nd

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' Kris Bryant leads all National League third basemen in the latest Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot update, but his teammate Anthony Rizzo has fallen behind the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in the first-base race.

Zimmerman, who trailed by nearly 94,000 votes last week, has a total of 670,671 votes, while Rizzo has accumulated 657,702 votes. Zimmerman is aiming for his second career All-Star selection (2009), and first starting assignment.

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs' Kris Bryant leads all National League third basemen in the latest Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot update, but his teammate Anthony Rizzo has fallen behind the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in the first-base race.

Zimmerman, who trailed by nearly 94,000 votes last week, has a total of 670,671 votes, while Rizzo has accumulated 657,702 votes. Zimmerman is aiming for his second career All-Star selection (2009), and first starting assignment.

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The 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played July 11 in Miami.

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Entering play Monday, Zimmerman, 32, leads the Majors with a .374 batting average and has 16 home runs and 48 RBIs. Rizzo is bidding for his fourth career All-Star selection (2014-16) and second straight fan-elected start. The last Cubs infielder to earn a starting nod from the fans in consecutive seasons was Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who made eight straight starts at second base for the NL All-Star team from 1986-93.

Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is in a close three-way race with leader Corey Seager of the Dodgers (604,783 votes) and Zack Cozart of the Reds (547,750). Russell, who was the 2016 All-Star starter, has received 537,688 votes.

Bryant leads all NL third basemen with 895,752 votes.

The remaining NL leaders include Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (1,149,130 votes); Giants catcher Buster Posey (917,359); and outfielders Bryce Harper of the Nationals (1,459,235), Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies (979,961) and the Cubs' Jason Heyward (498,079).

Heyward has rebounded from the .230 season he endured last year, his first with the Cubs.

"The turnaround has been offensive," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's still the same player on the field. He's playing a magnificent defense, he's running the bases like he did last year, he's been a great teammate like he was last year. Obviously, the difference is the offensive side of the baseball, which is really crucial to awards in our game. Give him credit for what he did last offseason."

Heyward went to the Cubs complex in Mesa, Ariz., in November, and worked nearly every day, primarily with assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske, who lives in the area.

"He was not satisfied with last year," Maddon said of Heyward. "The only difference is now he's changed his hand position, and his hands are more active in his swing and the ball's coming off hot. The rest of his game is exactly the same."

The Cubs' Javier Baez is second to Murphy in the second baseman voting with 715,928 votes, and catcher Willson Contreras (511,029) is second to Posey. Heyward is trailed by his Cubs teammate Ben Zobrist (472,114), the Braves' Matt Kemp (457,586) and Chicago's Kyle Schwarber (423,394).

The Cubs made All-Star history last year by becoming the second team to have its entire infield to start an All-Star Game, as Rizzo, Zobrist, Russell and Bryant were elected to the NL team. The only other team to accomplish that feat was the 1963 Cardinals.

This is the first time Schwarber, Baez and Contreras have been included on the All-Star ballot.

How many players from the defending World Series champs will make it this time? Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 10:59 p.m. CT. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.

Following the announcement of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.

The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo