ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria is healthy and picking up where he left off prior to missing much of last season with a partially torn left hamstring.
The 27-year-old third baseman is once again in the middle of the action and bringing an All-Star-worthy performance to every Rays game. Now Rays fans will have the chance to vote Longoria back into the Midsummer Classic as the All-Star ballots for the American League and National League launched on Wednesday.
What Longoria brings to the table is well known throughout the Majors and particularly inside the Rays' clubhouse.
"He doesn't even have to be hitting well to improve our lineup," said David Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "His name being in the lineup, the pitcher knows when he's on deck, when he's in the hole, when he's due up fifth in that inning. They know where Longo is at all times. They probably know where he's sitting in the dugout.
"So it's a good thing to have him in the lineup. It gives everybody else a lot more stuff to hit, because nobody wants Evan Longoria to beat them. You know which guy on each team that you don't want to beat you. You're going to make somebody else beat you. And for us, that's Evan Longoria. It's fun to watch when he's in the lineup how different everything is."
Added Rays manager Joe Maddon: "The manager's intelligence level is directly tied to his players at all moments. And having him play on a more consistent basis would make any manager smarter. That and a good bullpen, I think, really increase a manager's IQ. There's no doubt, him playing often more often makes us all look better."
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until July 4 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Fans may submit 25 online ballots during the voting period, but can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, visit mlb.com and register in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans can also once again participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league whom they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The 2013 Home Run Derby -- part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day -- will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 15.
The 2013 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 7, on the 2013 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by freecreditscore.com on MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Joining Longoria from the Rays on this year's ballot are James Loney, first base; Ben Zobrist, second base; Yunel Escobar, shortstop; Jose Molina, catcher; Luke Scott, DH; and Kelly Johnson, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Joyce in the outfield.
May 6 is the first day that 2013 All-Star balloting will be available inside Tropicana Field, and June 16 will be the final day.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.