Notes: Jones snares All-Star lead

Notes: Jones snares All-Star lead

ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones proved he was one of the game's top players with the offensive dominance he displayed through the final four months of last season. Obviously, fans haven't forgotten.

When Major League Baseball released the latest results in this year's All-Star balloting on Tuesday, Jones was tops among National League outfielders, and among NL players, his vote total was second only to St. Louis' Albert Pujols.

"He's very deserving," Braves veteran Brian Jordan said. "I'm a big fan of Andruw. He goes out there and plays every day. He gets his hot and cold times. But he still produces."

Other Braves players who currently rank among the top five in balloting at their position are second baseman Marcus Giles, shortstop Edgar Renteria and third baseman Chipper Jones. The top vote-getter at each infield position and catcher along with the top three outfielders will be elected starters for the All-Star Game, which will be played on July 11 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Fans can cast votes up to 25 times with the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites. Online balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29.

Andruw Jones, whose 47 RBIs, entering Tuesday, ranked second in the NL, has played in four All-Star Games. But he has never previously been elected as a starter.

When the first results were released on Tuesday, Jones (420,462 votes), New York's Carlos Beltran ( 341,769 ) and St. Louis' Jim Edmonds (334,027) were the top three NL outfielders. With this being his first year on the ballot, Jeff Francoeur (136,478) has received respectable consideration as well.

Renteria currently ranks second among NL shortstops to St. Louis' David Eckstein. Entering Tuesday, the two had similar statistics, with Eckstein leading only in batting average by two-hundredths of a point (.335 to .333).

Giles, who was elected the starter for the 2003 All-Star Game, ranked third behind Houston's Craig Biggio and Philadelphia's Chase Utley. His vote total (153,988) was about half of what Biggio had received to gain the early lead.

Chipper Jones ranked fourth, trailing St. Louis' Scott Rolen, New York's David Wright and Houston's Morgan Ensberg.

Brian McCann, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list, has received due respect from fans, but his vote total currently falls just short of the top five garnered by NL catchers.

Yates up, Cormier down: When the Braves signed Tyler Yates to a Minor League deal on May 3, they were hoping he'd prove capable of helping Atlanta's bullpen. It took the 28 year-old right-hander less than a month at Triple-A Richmond to prove he deserved a shot.

"The last couple of weeks they've been talking about him a lot," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's been throwing good. So we'll give him a crack."

Before Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers, the Braves announced they had purchased Yates' contract and optioned Lance Cormier to Richmond. Since coming off the disabled list, Cormier had made three appearances, during which he completed 6 1/3 innings, issued eight walks and allowed nine earned runs.

Yates, who had his right shoulder surgically repaired in February last year, struggled with the Orioles in Spring Training and was released from their organization near the end of April. He was signed after throwing in front of Braves and Astros scouts a few days later.

"I can't remember the last time my shoulder has felt this good and this strong," said Yates, who recorded 10 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .214 batting average, while completing 8 1/3 innings in seven appearances for Richmond.

Yates, whose fastball has been clocked in the upper-90s, made 21 appearances, including seven starts for the Mets in 2004. But the native of Lihue, Hawaii says the shoulder ailment and time have given him a better understanding of what it takes to stick in the Majors.

"I'm more mature and I know what I want to do now," Yates said. "I'm just going to go out there and challenge hitters."

Foster encouraged: Left-handed reliever threw approximately 40 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday afternoon and came away even more confident that he won't need surgery to repair his once ailing left elbow.

"That's the last thing on my mind until my arm tells me otherwise," Foster said. "I'm thinking I'm going to come back and be 100 percent. Surgery isn't in my mind right now."

Before things dramatically improved the past three weeks, Foster, who hasn't pitched in a game since March 7, was burdened with the belief he needed season-ending surgery. Now he's pushing himself with maximum effort and believing he could be back in the Atlanta bullpen some time in June.

"It felt good today," Foster said. "It felt real good."

Braves bits: John Smoltz, who tweaked his left hamstring on Sunday, has told Cox that he's fine and will make his scheduled start on Friday. ... Outfielder Kelly Johnson has been swinging a hot bat in Richmond, but his right elbow is still ailing and he'll visit Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham on Wednesday. ... Kyle Davies, who had his right groin surgically repaired last week, was walking without noticeable discomfort on Tuesday. The hope is that he can return shortly after the All-Star break.

Coming up: The Braves will conclude their three-game series with the Dodgers on Wednesday night. Tim Hudson (4-3, 4.12 ERA) will oppose Brett Tomko (5-2, 3.86 ERA).

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.