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07/06/08 7:29 PM ET
Giants' ace, closer named All-Stars
Lincecum, Wilson earn first trips to Midsummer Classic
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- As expected, Tim Lincecum's going to the All-Star Game, though you can probably forget about him starting. But Lincecum will have some familiar company in the National League bullpen.
Lincecum and Brian Wilson, who rank among baseball's top starter-closer combinations, will again compose a formidable tandem at this year's All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. Both were selected to the National League squad for the first time in voting by players announced Sunday.
Lincecum and Wilson expressed appreciation for being singled out by their peers.
"They have a feel for it because they go through the same things that we do," Lincecum said.
"It makes me feel honored that they look at me and think of an All-Star candidate," said Wilson, who has saved seven victories for Lincecum this season.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 5 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Those broadcasts likely won't begin with Lincecum on the mound. Capitalizing on Monday's scheduled off-day, Giants manager Bruce Bochy rearranged the rotation by scheduling Lincecum to start Tuesday at New York, one day earlier than originally slated. Had Lincecum pitched Wednesday, that would have been his final outing for the Giants until after the All-Star break. Instead, Bochy's revision will enable Lincecum to start Sunday at Chicago in San Francisco's final game before the break.
"The All-Star Game is huge," Bochy said. "It's a special day, but the priority is always your club, especially clubs that are in it. You're going to do what you can to improve your situation."
The Giants, despite their 39-50 record, trail first-place Arizona by five games in the NL West.
Lincecum echoed Bochy. "The season is what matters," said the 24-year-old, terming his All-Star selection as "an added bonus ... the cherry on top of the cake."
Since Lincecum's between-starts schedule would require him to throw in the bullpen on the day of the All-Star Game -- assuming he pitches next Sunday -- he conceivably could pitch an inning of relief for the NL.
Both Lincecum and Wilson would like to perform at Yankee Stadium, since this year marks the ballpark's swan song.
"I think it's a bigger deal because it's going to be the last year Yankee Stadium's there," Lincecum said.
Growing up as a Red Sox fan taught Wilson about Yankee Stadium's mystique -- which he confirmed by talking to fellow Major Leaguers who have pitched there.
"They said it's a one-of-a-kind experience, stepping on the mound there with the aura and history and the crowd and intensity," he said.
Lincecum (10-1) has already gained an aura during his 14 months in the big leagues, as his appearance on the cover of the current issue of Sports Illustrated demonstrates. He leads the NL with a .909 winning percentage and 122 strikeouts. His 2.49 ERA ranks second in the league to that of Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez, a fellow All-Star.
Lincecum's the 13th starting pitcher in the Giants' San Francisco history to be an All-Star.
"Timmy's been, if not the best pitcher, one of the best pitchers in the National League all season," said Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand, one of five NL candidates in the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote.
Wilson, 26, leads the NL with 24 saves. He has remained remarkably consistent, blowing only two save opportunities and converting his last 15 in a row, matching the fourth-longest streak since the Giants moved West in 1958. He also has displayed a closer's penchant for strikeouts, amassing 34 in his last 26 2/3 innings.
As confident as Wilson is, he admitted that he felt "a little surprised" to become an NL All-Star -- the first Giants reliever to receive the distinction since Robb Nen in 2002. His only All-Star selection in four previous professional seasons was 2005 in low Single-A Augusta. And that, he said, was as a replacement for an injured player.
"I don't feel like I've done such a superb job. I've kind of done mediocre," said Wilson, who owns a 4.37 ERA. "But I think I've done an OK job as far as preserving the wins. It's still an honor. But it's very surreal for me."
Lincecum and Wilson are the first pair of Giants All-Stars since left fielder Barry Bonds and right-hander Jason Schmidt in 2004. It could have been a trio, but catcher Bengie Molina -- who was hitting .297 with six home runs and 52 RBIs entering Sunday -- was left off the team. Players elected Los Angeles' Russell Martin (.306-9-42) to back up starter Geovany Soto of Chicago, and Atlanta's Brian McCann (.298-15-48) was added by Colorado's Clint Hurdle, the NL manager.
Molina, said Lincecum, has been integral to the success of the Giants' staff, which led the NL with 688 strikeouts entering Sunday.
"He takes it to heart," Lincecum said. "It's like he does the pitching for us, he cares so much."
Still, Lincecum and Wilson have proven their legitimacy by making the All-Star team.
"I think it's going to be the first of many for both of these guys," Rowand said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.