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SAN DIEGO -- Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is headed to the All-Star Game for the third consecutive season.
Gonzalez, who swings one of the most prodigious bats in the National League, may or may not be the Padres' lone representative in the 81st Midsummer Classic on July 13 at Angel Stadium.
Closer Heath Bell, who leads the Major Leagues with 23 saves, is one of five candidates for the last spot on the NL roster as part of the Final Vote.
As for Gonzalez, who played in the 2008 All-Star Game in New York and again a year ago in St. Louis, he's enjoying another big season for the surprising Padres.
What does Gonzalez mean to the Padres, who entered Sunday's game against the Astros tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL at 48-33?
Just ask his teammates.
"I know Albert Pujols is the best player on the planet, but no player, I think, means more to his ballclub than Adrian," Padres infielder Jerry Hairston said of Gonzalez, who is also a two-time Gold Glove winner.
Gonzalez is hitting .295 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs. He's been bothered at times this season by a sore right shoulder, though. When it first occurred in early May, he ended up using it to his advantage.
With the right shoulder on the mend, he allowed pitches to get deeper on him in the strike zone, as the left-handed-hitting Gonzalez would simply drive those pitches the other way with more regularity.
The results have been stunning, especially against left-handed pitching. He's hitting .327 against southpaws. And Gonzalez, as he has been in his career, has been a terror hitting away from spacious PETCO Park, hitting .336 with 10 home runs in 140 at-bats.
Because of those numbers, Gonzalez was voted into the All-Star Game by players, coaches and managers around the league.
"I told him that it's one thing to be recognized nationally through a fan ballot, and that's a great honor. But I think equally, if not more important, is how your peers perceive you," said Padres manager Bud Black. "I'm very happy for Gonzo, and deservedly so. He is an All-Star. He's proven it at the plate and he's proven it in the field, and I'm glad that was recognized again by the guys in the league."
Gonzalez echoed that it means more to him to be voted in by those around the league rather than the fans.
"It's a great honor," Gonzalez said. "The fact that I was voted on again by the players and my peers, that's pretty special to me. It's the people that you play around. They're the ones that pay attention and I think really see what you can do."
Gonzalez said he was also asked to participate in the Home Run Derby for the second consecutive year, but he declined because he didn't want to risk further injury to his right shoulder that he aggravated while sliding back to third base earlier this week.
Now in its ninth year, the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continues until 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, July 8. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard rates may apply.
Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and 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. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Last season, the Padres had two All-Star Game representatives: Gonzalez and Bell, who went on to lead the National League in saves (42). Bell ended up as the losing pitcher in the game last July in St. Louis.