Four Padres have All-Star potential

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With a first-place team boasting the best record in the National League, the Padres would seem poised to have several players in the 2010 All-Star Game on July 13th in Anaheim.But their lack of star power on a national level could keep that number disproportionately low.

"It would be really nice if we could get some more Padres in there," said Padres' closer Heath Bell who should make a second straight appearance. "Adrian (Gonzalez) definitely should go. (Luke) Gregerson's a possibility, they don't always take non-closing guys in the bullpen, but he's had an outstanding year. I also think (catcher) Nick Hundley and (pitcher) Mat Latos are well-deserving too."

By Bell's count, that's five Padres.

More than likely, only three will get the call -- four if you include manager Bud Black, who was named to the National League coaching staff by NL manager Charlie Manuel, and Black may need to do some campaigning for his players.

"I hope I get a call (from Manuel) and get to offer my opinion," Black says. "I think we have some guys (on the Padres) who are All-Stars."In order from most likely to least likely, here is a guess as to who will represent the Padres on the 34-man National League All-Star team (statistics are through the end of June).

Closer Heath Bell (3-0, 21 SVs, 43 K's)Bell ranks second in the National League in saves in his second full season on the job. Plus, he would be a sentimental pick because the All-Star game is in Anaheim, not far from his hometown of Tustin. "If I get a chance to go to Anaheim it would be a cool honor," Bell says. "I never thought I would be an All-Star last year. This year, if I could repeat it, that would be even better." Bell said that if he makes it, he expects to get a lot of calls, and ticket requests, from friends and family. "I'm going to tell you right now, anybody out there, I'm not leaving tickets for you guys, if I make it," Bell says. "It's going to be family only, immediate family."

First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.302, 16 HRs, 51 RBI)After a slow start, Gonzalez heated up in the month of June. Despite very little protection in the line-up, Gonzalez raised his batting average to .302 while hitting .362 in the month of June. He had seven home runs, 22 RBI, and 13 runs scored in the past month. The only reason Gonzalez is not a complete lock to make the squad is because competition at the first base position is steep. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols leads all first baseman in fan voting; Cincinnati's Joey Votto has carried the Reds to first place in the NL Central and through the end of June had 18 HRs (tied for first in the NL) with 55 RBI and a .313 batting average; Carlsbad native Troy Glaus (14, 56, .261) has done the same for the Atlanta Braves, and Washington's Adam Dunn has hit 17 home runs while batting .274 -- and the Nationals need to have someone representing them.

Starting Pitcher Mat Latos (8-4, 2.85 ERA, 84 K's)The Padres have the top pitching staff in the Majors in terms of ERA, so a second pitcher is a no-brainer. The 22 year-old Latos leads the team in strikeouts, is tied for the lead in wins and has an ERA of 2.85. "I'm not even thinking about it right now," Latos says. "I have a couple more starts here before the All-Star Break and I will just go about my business. If my name gets called, I'm going to have to go to the All-Star Game and do what I can to make everyone on this team proud."Padres' third baseman Chase Headley voted for him:"I think he's tremendously deserving. I hope he gets a chance to go out there because he's done a tremendous job all year and to see how much he has grown, not so much physically because he's always had dominating stuff, but the mental maturity he has achieved this year has been great." Latos appreciates the support. "It's great to know that your teammates have that much faith in you," Latos says. "It's a big honor to go represent the Padres and be in the All-Star Game."

Relief Pitcher Luke Gregerson (2-2, 1 SV, 1.60 ERA, 51 K's)Middle relief pitchers don't usually get much love when it comes to All-Star teams, but Gregerson should get a very serious look. He set a Padres team record for most consecutive batters retired by a reliever (26) and most consecutive batters faced without a walk (110) by a reliever. He also leads all Major League relievers with a 12.75 strikeout/walk ratio. As the seventh-inning specialist, Gregerson has proved invaluable to the bullpen. He also picked up his first career save last Sunday.

Catcher Nick Hundley (.256, 5 HR, 25 RBI)This is a long shot, but I thought I'd explore it since Bell brought it up. Giants' catcher Yadier Molina inexplicably leads the fan voting. With a batting average of .235, three home runs and 30 RBI, he would have a tough time being the number 2 catcher for the Padres. But the fans don't always vote with their heads. Manuel now has no choice but to take former Padre Miguel Olivo from the Colorado Rockies (.308, 11 HR, 38 RBI) which leaves one spot for another catcher. Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves, Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs and Ryan Doumit of the Pittsburgh Pirates each have a better batting average and more home runs than Hundley. Plus Hundley has split time with Yorvit Torrealba. While that works great for the Padres on a day-to-day basis, it does not bode well for an All-Star team spot.

The rosters come out on Sunday, and regardless of who makes it for the Padres, manager Bud Black has the right attitude. "It's a great couple of days," Black says. "I'm flattered that Charlie picked me. It's a great event. It's festive. It's great to see a lot of the players that you play against in the same locker room, which is fun...It's in a park that I'm very familiar with. I know a lot of people there as well so it will be a great couple of days and I am very honored."

The game can be seen starting at 5 pm PDT on Fox 5 San Diego.

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