Padres' Bell earns first All-Star Game trip
Consistent closer headed for St. Louis with Gonzalez
SAN DIEGO -- Heath Bell had the perfect plan, or so he thought, for the All-Star break.
"I'm taking my kids to Disneyland," Bell said earlier this week.
Those plans took a dramatic, yet welcome turn, Sunday when the Padres closer, along with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, was named to the National League All-Star team, each selected by voting among players, managers and coaches.
"When you get picked by your peers, that's the ultimate honor," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That's so gratifying. It's a great honor for both of them."
The All-Star Game will be held on July 14 in St. Louis at Busch Stadium.
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, 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.
Bell is tied for the Major League lead with 23 saves and will be an All-Star for the first time. Gonzalez, who leads the Padres with 24 home runs and 51 RBIs this season, will play in his second All-Star Game in as many years.
Bell is in his first full season as closer, having replaced the Major League all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman, who is now with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bell has a 1.53 ERA and has allowed only two earned runs since June 7. Bell has struck out 39 in 35 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting .171 against him. He has only blown one save opportunity this season.
"You know, honestly, I keep things simple. My biggest job here was to win over the fans. I knew in my heart I could do it," Bell said. "I thought I was going to be a stud, not necessarily an All-Star."
The success hasn't surprised Black, in the least.
"You never know until the season plays out, but it doesn't surprise me," Black said. "He has been as consistent as any closer in the league. He's been steady all the way through, from the first game. He's pitching outstanding.
"What you want is consistency in performance, and that's what we're getting out of him. You can count on him. That's what you want out of any of your guys."
Gonzalez, who in 2008 earned a spot in the All-Star Game for the first time and won a Gold Glove, hit 20 home runs in April and May before walking a club record 36 times in June as opposing pitchers chose to pass on serving him up good pitches.
"I'm excited. It's always an honor to be able to participate," Gonzalez said. "It's one of the things that we as players wish for when the season starts. Finishing strong is more important, but this is a good start, and it's a lot of fun."
Gonzalez has averaged 30 home runs in each of his first three seasons in San Diego and figures to easily surpass that number this season.
"He is more relaxed this year. He has only been in the league, what, three, four years? He's still learning. But he's gotten better each year," said Adrian's older brother and teammate, Edgar Gonzalez. "That shows to me he's becoming comfortable and he's learning the pitchers in the league."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.