Padres All-Stars enjoy shot at redemption
Gonzalez, Bell hoping to help NL break losing streak
ANAHEIM -- Players will often go to great lengths to get to the All-Star Game, no more so than Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell did last summer.
Gonzalez and Bell, who will again represent the Padres in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Anaheim, had to rent a minivan in Indianapolis last July and drive nearly three hours before arriving in St. Louis.
So the drive from San Diego figures to be a snap for Gonzalez and Bell, who are ready for another turn in the limelight of the Midsummer Classic.
For Gonzalez, this will be his third consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game. In his first All-Star Game in New York in 2008, Gonzalez went 1-for-3 and drove in a run in a 15-inning game won by the American League, 4-3.
A year ago in St. Louis, Gonzalez walked in his only plate appearance in a game won by the American League, 4-3.
"I want to be able to help the team win this year," Gonzalez said, pointing to the National League's 13-game losing streak. "The last years, the NL has lost. Hopefully I can help the team win."
His teammate certainly wouldn't mind that outcome, either. Bell played a prominent role in last year's All-Star Game, his first, but it wasn't exactly in the way he wanted.
Bell was the losing pitcher, allowing the go-ahead run in the eighth inning when Andruw Jones knocked in Curtis Granderson -- who had tripled earlier in the inning -- with the go-ahead run.
"I'm definitely going to go out there and try to strike everybody out, and I definitely don't want to lose," said Bell, whose dad, Jim, sat alongside him during media availability Monday. "My first All-Star Game will always be shown, they're always going to show that inning. Yeah, I lost the game, but you're always going to remember my inning. It wasn't that bad. This year, hopefully I can go strike three guys out and possibly get the save."
Bell was originally a Final Vote candidate but was added to the roster last week when Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo suffered a rib-cage strain. So far this season, Bell has 24 saves and a 1.88 ERA.
"At first I was really happy and excited. Then I was really sad that he [Gallardo] got hurt, because I don't want anyone -- especially pitchers -- getting hurt around the league," Bell said.
Gonzalez was selected by his peers and, again, enters the All-Star Game with some gaudy credentials. He's hitting .301 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs for the Padres, who lead the NL West by two games with a 51-37 record.
Despite being troubled at times by a sore right shoulder, Gonzalez is on pace to eclipse the 30-home run mark for the fourth consecutive season. And he's actually having more success against left-handed pitchers (.333) than he ever has in his career.
"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's manager, Bud Black, in Anaheim as one of the National League's coaches, said his first baseman belongs in the All-Star Game and that it was important his peers voted him in.
"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," Black said.
"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."
The guys in the league also have recognized how well Gonzalez and his team have played thus far in 2010. When Bell and Gonzalez came to the All-Star Game last year, they were at the bottom of the NL West. Now they sit atop it, the chased rather than the chaser.
"I was in this position in 2006 and 2007, so I know what it's about," Gonzalez said. "It's a lot of fun. People have come up to me and told me they like watching us play because we play the game right."
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.