The Washington Times - July 3, 2012, 06:14PM

When Major League Baseball released the latest tallies Tuesday afternoon, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was in third place in the Final Vote for the All-Star team, trailing St. Louis’ David Freese and Atlanta’s Chipper Jones.

Jones, whom Harper said Sunday that he’d vote for to get the future Hall of Famer to the game in his final season, won’t have to rely on the fans to get him there any longer. Jones was named to the NL All-Star team Tuesday evening, replacing injured Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.

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That would appear to clear the way somewhat for Harper to earn the fans’ vote to become one of the youngest All-Stars in MLB history. He’d have to leapfrog Freese, of course. 

The Nationals ramped up their campaign on Tuesday to get fans out to vote, including multiple teammates tweeting their support for Harper and urging fans to get online and vote for him. At an press conference for their three current All-Stars, shortstop Ian Desmond was asked how many times he voted for Harper on Tuesday. Desmond grabbed the microphone and pointedly said: “The question is, how many times have you voted for Bryce?”

“Let’s not forget,” Desmond said, “that we’ve got a 19-year-old kid in our clubhouse who is having a great year… This guy deserves to go.”

But you can continue to count Nationals manager Davey Johnson among those who reiterated Tuesday his preference for the rookie to use the All-Star break to rest. Johnson did not vote, saying only “I go online for a lot of things. That is not one of them.”

Harper has been dealing with some nagging back soreness for a good part of the first half and, since he’s played every game since his call-up, been ridden pretty hard. Asked if he thought it’d be good for baseball that his teenage outfielder went to the All-Star Game, Johnson was blunt.

“I think it’d be good for baseball if you’d just leave him a lone and let him play here, and then come back and play in Miami (after the break),” Johnson said.

Johnson also offered a pretty hilarious diatribe on the Final Vote as he tried to figure out how, exactly, it works. Johnson managed in the All-Star game in 1987. Needless to say, it’s changed a little since then and the Final Vote selection is something somewhat foreign to him.

“Is this an honorary selection?” Johnson said. “I don’t really understand what five people get in a runoff on and how they got nominated. I have no idea. Is it a popularity contest? Is it honorary? I don’t know what it is, to begin with.

“But I think Chipper should be on it, period. Not somebody with 200 at-bats, first year. That’s just my way of thinking. If it’s who’s got the most tweeters following them, maybe that’s it. I don’t know. Is it a mail-in ballot? What is it?”

Anyway, there are still two days left for Nationals fans to vote Harper into the game and their path toward getting him there just became an awful lot more clear. Fans can vote at MLB.com and voting ends at 4 p.m. on Thursday.