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Vlad, K-Rod make All-Star team
07/04/2004  9:57 PM ET
ANAHEIM -- The Angels' season has been one of injuries and inconsistency, but there have been two constants, and their names are Vladimir Guerrero and Francisco Rodriguez.

On Sunday, Guerrero's coronation as one of the best and most popular players in the American League became official, when he was voted into the starting outfield for the AL at the All-Star Game, which will be played July 13 in Houston.

And the Angels' electric setup man, 22-year-old Rodriguez, was honored for his incredible early season numbers with his first career All-Star selection as an AL reserve. Rodriguez's spot on the team came as a result of the players' vote.

Guerrero, the five-tool outfielder the Angels signed to a free-agent contract as the centerpiece of their offseason rebuilding project, left the Montreal Expos and the National League after seven years but hasn't needed much time to adjust to his new surroundings.

He has been the Angels' leader in just about every offensive category this year and continues to put up numbers that make him a legitimate Triple Crown candidate.

Going into Sunday's game against Los Angeles, Guerrero was leading the Angels with a .345 batting average, 20 home runs, 71 RBIs, a Major League-leading 69 runs scored, 109 hits, 24 doubles, a .394 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .611.

The strong-armed right fielder also led the Angels with eight outfield assists. He will be playing in his fifth All-Star Game.

Guerrero was the top vote-getter among all Major League outfielders, finishing with 3,024,870 votes. He is the first Angels outfielder to be voted as a starter since Reggie Jackson in 1984.

"Vlad Guerrero speaks for himself," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Everyone recognizes what he's done. He's been incredible."

When the Angels landed Guerrero with a quick and decisive five-year, $70 million offer at the last minute in January, there were a few questions about how he'd fare in Southern California.

Guerrero, a quiet family man from a small village in the Dominican Republic, had been relatively hidden in Montreal and hadn't been exposed to a big-city spotlight or the media attention that comes with being a superstar player.

Skeptics wondered if he could handle the pressure, and others wondered if his lower back was 100 percent healthy after he missed 40 games in 2003 because of a herniated disk.

Guerrero shined in Spring Training, showing no effects of the injury and seemingly no concerns about the heightened expectations involved with playing for a major-market, big-budget team that won the World Series two years ago.

Once the season started, he kept it going, homering in his first game and keeping his batting average above .300 all year.

While huge pieces of the Angels' lineup fell all around him -- Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Bengie Molina and Raul Mondesi all spent time on the disabled list -- Guerrero kept hitting and making milestones.

In a game in early June, he had a career night with nine RBIs against Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox.

Two weeks later, Guerrero hit the 250th home run of his career.

"I thank the fans and I feel great that I was selected by the fans," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "The fact that I'm starting the game as an Angel makes it even more special."

Rodriguez, meanwhile, has accomplished quite a bit in baseball since being called up to the Angels as a bright-eyed 20-year-old for the 2002 playoff run.

Rodriguez, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, who possesses a 95 mph fastball and one of the best breaking balls in the game, keyed the Angels' championship run with 28 postseason strikeouts and was dubbed "K-Rod" by the adoring media.

He followed that performance with a solid rookie campaign in 2003 and has been nearly unhittable this season.

Entering Sunday's game, Rodriguez had compiled a 1.04 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. Opposing batters were hitting .173 off him and he notched seven saves as the de facto closer when Troy Percival was on the DL.

His peers recognized this and voted him into the game, giving him 147 votes, which placed second behind Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's 291 votes. Rodriguez, 22, will be the youngest player on the AL squad.

"I never thought I would make the All-Star team," Rodriguez said.

"If you check the numbers, a lot of closers have more than 15 or 20 saves. I'm not a closer. But it's really exciting, especially to know I got in because of the players. For me, it's better that way."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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