Gonzalez gets first All-Star nod
First baseman to represent Padres in the Bronx
PHOENIX -- There are plenty of things that Adrian Gonzalez does once he steps inside a batter's box that impresses Padres manager Bud Black -- the sweet, effortless swing, the power to all fields and the ability to drive in runs when it matters most.
But ask Black where Gonzalez has made his biggest improvements from last season and you won't catch the second-year manager reeling off a list of gaudy statistics, like home runs, RBIs or even batting average.
It's the means by which Gonzalez has reached those impressive numbers that has Black impressed the most and, by and large, is a reason why he wasn't surprised in the least that the first baseman was selected as a reserve to play in the 79th Major League All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium.
"I think he's always had a great feel for what he's trying to do each and every at-bat. 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," Black said.
"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."
That has certainly been the case this season for the 26-year-old Gonzalez, in his third full season with the Padres. Going into Sunday's game against the Diamondbacks, Gonzalez was hitting .284 with 22 home runs and 70 RBIs, putting him well ahead of his pace last season when he hit 30 home runs and knocked in 100 runs.
"Without him, I do not know where we would be," Black said. "He's played pretty much every day. He's been tremendous, with the power, the RBI, the defense, he's been an All-Star performer, no doubt. He's been our best player."
How has Gonzalez accounted for his success this season?
"There's been a couple of things I've made adjustments to with guys who throw hard. ... I've made an adjustment with those kind of guys. I guess I shortened up my swing. Just continue to find ways that will give me an advantage against those kind of pitchers," Gonzalez said.
San Diego general manager Kevin Towers said Sunday that Gonzalez is fast becoming more of a complete player.
"The first two years, Adrian was a very good player but there were some inconsistencies in his approach," Towers said. "This year, he has been getting more clutch hits against closers, key hits off left-handers."
On Sunday, Gonzalez was rewarded for his big first half as he was selected by his peers when National League players voted him onto the team.
"I think it's nice to be recognized by our peers ... that they see what you're doing, I see what they're doing," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is one of three National League first basemen named to the team. Houston's Lance Berkman was selected by the fans and St. Louis' Albert Pujols was picked by the National League manager, Clint Hurdle of the Colorado Rockies.
It's the first All-Star nod for Gonzalez, who played his high school baseball in Chula Vista, just south of San Diego. He grew up watching and rooting for the Padres and now he'll represent the team in the last All-Star game to be played at Yankee Stadium.
"It feels great. It's obviously a big deal. It's my first time and I'm very excited. We'll see what happens," Gonzalez said. "The atmosphere is going to be pretty awesome."
The 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.
The Midsummer Classic will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 tilt.
Last season, the Padres had three All-Star Game representatives: Pitchers Chris Young, Trevor Hoffman and eventual Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, who started the game for the National League at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.