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Okajima wins Star slot

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  July 5, 2007 06:32 PM

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Oki wins.

Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima was just selected to the American League All-Star team in the final vote balloting for the 32nd spot on the roster.

Okajima joins Red Sox All-Stars Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Jonathan Papelbon, and David Ortiz on the team.

Okajima received 4.3 million votes in the online balloting on MLB.com to beat out Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. Other players on the AL Final Vote ballot were pitcher Pat Neshek of the Twins, pitcher Kelvim Escobar of the Angels, and pitcher Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays.

The Sox will have the most All-Stars in a season since 2002 when they also had six All-Stars selected.

This is the first time that the Red Sox have ever had as many as three pitchers selected to the All-Star team in the same season.

Okajima, who is 2-0 with a 0.88 ERA and four saves in 38 relief appearances this season, becomes just the sixth native of Japan to ever be selected for the All-Star Game.

The others are RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa (2003), OF Hideki Matsui (2003-04), RHP Hideo Nomo (1995), RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki (2001-02), and OF Ichiro Suzuki (2001-07). Of that group, only Nomo (1995) and Suzuki (2001) were selected as All-Stars in their rookie seasons.

Okajima will be the ninth Red Sox rookie All-Star, joining 1B Walt Dropo (1950); 3B Frank Malzone (1957); RHP Don Schwall (1961); 1B George Scott (1966); C Carlton Fisk (1972); OF Fred Lynn (1975); SS Nomar Garciaparra (1997); and RHP Jonathan Papelbon (2006).

Okajima is the third Red Sox player to be selected as an All-Star since the Final Vote program began in 2002, joining Johnny Damon in 2002 and Jason Varitek in 2003.

The 2007 All-Star Game will be played at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 10.

Information from the Red Sox media relations department was used in this update.

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