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Phillips ecstatic to be joined by mates in New York

Phillips ecstatic to be joined by mates in New York

Phillips ecstatic to be joined by mates in New York

NEW YORK -- Brandon Phillips has been an All-Star three times, but he called the upcoming Midsummer Classic at Citi Field on Tuesday the most special one because he gets to share it with his teammates Joey Votto and closer Aroldis Chapman.

Phillips, who is starting at second base and leading off for the National League, joins Votto, who starts at first base and is hitting third. It marks just the fifth time in All-Star Game history that teammates will comprise the right side of the infield.

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"I feel like this All-Star Game is better than all the rest because I get to start with my teammate, Joey Votto," Phillips said. "I'm looking forward to it. And for Chapman to be here, he's just been lights-out all year. So it's an honor for us to representing Cincinnati."

Votto, who is participating in his fourth All-Star Game and will be making his second straight start at first base, said he was also excited to start alongside Phillips.

"I'm proud to represent Cincinnati, but I'm most proud to be able to start beside Brandon Phillips," Votto said. "Aroldis Chapman also made the team, but I think it means a lot for our fans to tune in right away and see the right side of the infield that they're so familiar with back home."

Chapman, 25, remains one of baseball's most electric closers, as he has a 2.74 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings to earn his second All-Star Game bid. Unlike his teammates, he won't be starting the game, but he's a good bet to be used by NL manager Bruce Bochy late in the game. It should be particularly special for him, because the Cuba native's parents are expected to be in attendance.

"I'm really happy about it," Chapman said through translator Tomas Vera about making the All-Star Game. "All three of us are representing Cincinnati."

Phillips, 32, is hitting .266 with 12 homers this season but is getting hits when they count, as he's batting .404 with runners in scoring position. That has led to 74 RBIs, which is tied for second in the NL with Allen Craig and tied for fourth in baseball behind Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Paul Goldschmidt.

It led to Phillips being elected by the fans, which marked the first time since 1978 the Reds had a second baseman start the All-Star Game.

"It can't get more special than that," Phillips said. "It's a beautiful thing. I love the fans. If it wasn't for the fans, I wouldn't be here. And for me to hit leadoff, I didn't even know about it, so I just want to represent Cincinnati."

Votto, 29, is having another productive season and has erased any doubts that he wouldn't be the same after tearing meniscus cartilage in his left knee on June 30 of last year.

The first baseman is hitting .318 while leading the league with a .434 on-base percentage. He also has 15 homers and 42 RBIs in 95 games. Votto, the 2010 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner, said he was happy to be playing in his fourth straight All-Star Game but wasn't ready to put his impressive career in perspective just yet.

"I'm in the middle of my career so it's hard for me to answer that, but I set lofty goals when I was young," Votto said. "There are personal goals I've set for myself, and I don't think I've achieved them yet."

One of those goals is obviously to bring a World Series title home to Cincinnati, as the Reds came up short last season, when they were eliminated in the NL Division Series by the Giants in five games. So Votto is aware how important the All-Star Game can be for the Reds, as the winner gets home-field advantage in the World Series.

Votto said the key is to treat it like he would any other game, as the goal remains to help the NL win the Midsummer Classic for a fourth straight year.

"The key is not to be distracted by all the stuff that comes with the game and not get bogged down," Votto said. "The most important part of this event is the game. So if you do things that make you not prepared for the game, you're really short-changing the fans."

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 Tuesday. 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 also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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