07/14/08 5:45 PM ET
Gonzalez embraces first All-Star Game
Padres first baseman putting team's woes out of his head
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
It won't be easy, though.
For as much as the Padres first baseman Gonzalez is looking forward to spending time in New York with his wife, older brother David and parents while soaking up all things All-Star, his mind never drifts far from the frosty reality of the regular season.
"I wish we were talking about the division, how the [National League West] race is shaping up. It's unfortunate, but that's the way baseball is," Gonzalez said Monday during a press conference at the Grand Hyatt in New York.
"Sometimes things don't go your way. But hopefully we can turn it up in the second half. We're not too far off."
Despite being tied with Seattle for the second-worst winning percentage among all Major League teams (.389), the Padres -- who are 21 games below .500 at 37-58 -- are, oddly enough, just 10 games out of first place in the National League West.
Technically, they're still in a race, though general manager Kevin Towers said recently that the team will be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, meaning that the Padres are looking to add prospects and not trade them away for players to help them make a push toward the postseason.
Gonzalez, 26, might welcome a bat or two to give him some protection in the lineup, as opposing teams are choosing their pitches much more carefully than earlier in the year when Gonzalez, who is hitting .276 with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs, tortured just about every pitcher he saw, left-handed or right-handed.
Gonzalez was hitting .293 on June 27 but has gone 9-for-53 with five RBIs in his last 14 games. He admits to pressing at the plate, chasing pitches he normally wouldn't.
"You come to the plate, you see that we're down a couple runs and know that if you get that big hit it might turn things around," Gonzalez said. "You put more pressure on yourself and chase pitches outside the zone and you get more frustrated that you chased that pitch. It builds up on you. You want to help the team come over the top, help them win."
"This last week I haven't been doing that because I've been trying to come up with the extra hit."
More often than not, Gonzalez has done that without pressing. Up until his recent slide, Gonzalez has been remarkably steady, hitting .279 in April, .288 in May and .291 in June. He's still on pace to pass his career-bests in home runs (30) and RBIs (100) that he set last season.
"I think he's always had a great feel for what he's trying to do each and every at-bat," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He studies pitchers, he's on video, he watches them during the game. He recalls previous at-bats. He has a great knack for his approach, every at-bat, pitch to pitch.
"He has an understanding of what a pitcher is going to try and do to him. ... He's able to, more often than not, win the battle."
For a few days, though, until the second half of the season begins Thursday in St. Louis, Gonzalez will do his best to forget the Padres' first-half woes and focus on embracing his first run as an All-Star, beginning with watching Monday's Home Run Derby.
"I'm getting excited. It's definitely a lot of fun for me. I'm going to have a lot of fun with it ... get caught up in the moment, try to have fun with the guys, joke around and just enjoy it. It will be a lot of fun," Gonzalez said.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.