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Hernandez deserving of All-Star buzz

Hernandez deserving of All-Star buzz

Ramon Hernandez is too busy with his day job to get involved, but he has about 30 campaign managers he can call on any time he pleases.

They are found in every corner of the Padres' clubhouse, from manager Bruce Bochy office down through the ranks, and they'd like nothing better than to see their man catching for the National League in the July 12 All-Star Game in Detroit.

"It'd be great to see him represent us," Bochy said of his durable, invaluable receiver. "He's been solid all year. He plays both sides of the ball so well. He has to be a very strong candidate."

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His backup, Miguel Ojeda, sees Hernandez, 29, emerging as an All-Star Game fixture.

"He should be there from now on," Ojeda said. "Ramon's in his prime, and he's going to be good for a long time."

Those who rely on his expertise and guidance rally enthusiastically in support of the man from Venezuela, who thus far has drawn light support at the polls. Maybe his hometown fans have been too preoccupied with the Padres' heroics to pick up the ballots.

"He commands respect because he's been an All-Star before, he's been on playoff teams in Oakland, and he handled the big three with the A's," said Padres starter Adam Eaton, another Padres All-Star candidate. "Any time you have a catcher with that kind of resume, it gives you confidence, calms your nerves. You know he's been through tougher situations than whatever you're facing at the time.

"Any team that wins always has a good catcher. Everything starts with the catcher, from the first sign of the game to the last sign. I gave (rookie) Tim Stauffer some good advice: Follow Ramon."

The Padres have followed their catcher's lead throughout their remarkable march through May, transforming themselves from a struggling club that started 9-13 into a legitimate pennant contender.

Hernandez's defense and offense have been constants. He was batting .305 through Saturday, with a .381 average with runners in scoring position.

The day after his 13-game hitting streak was snapped in San Francisco, Ramon responded with a three-hit game Saturday, missing the cycle by a triple on a day he was robbed at the center-field fence of extra bases by the Giants' Jason Ellison.

"Show me another guy who does what he does," first baseman Phil Nevin said. "He's a leader in here. He wants to play every day. He hits for average and power. He's unbelievable with working with pitchers. He keeps the other team's running game under control.

"All-around, I don't know if there's a better catcher in this game. People talk about (Jason) Varitek, (Jorge) Posada. To me, Ramon's right up there."

Varitek and Posada perform in the American League. Hernandez made the AL All-Star squad in 2003 with Oakland, calling it a "once in a lifetime experience."

Invited to Chicago to join the AL stars at Comiskey Park, Ramon's head was spinning as he absorbed the sights and sounds.

"The people at home in Venezuela really appreciated that," Hernandez said. "Your country is happy for you, and proud. You try to represent them the best you can. You're playing with the best players in the game, and it's a great feeling. It was totally a great time for me."

Born in Caracas and a resident of Aragua, Venezuela, Hernandez was in his fifth season with the A's, on his way to career highs in homers [21] and RBIs [78] when he became the first A's catcher since Terry Steinbach in 1993 to play in the All-Star Game.

He was hitless in one at-bat in the game.

Traded to the Padres in November 2003 along with outfielder Terrence Long for outfielder Mark Kotsay, Hernandez has flourished in San Diego, becoming one of the Padres' most respected players.

Hernandez said he'd be delighted to play for the National League in Detroit in the 2005 midsummer classic, but it's not what's on his mind. He appeared in the postseason four consecutive seasons (2000-03) with the A's but was denied a trip to the World Series.

"If I never go there again, I'm happy," Hernandez said. "After you got one, it's like, 'OK, that was great.' Being on the All-Star ballot is a good feeling, but I really don't think about it. When the time comes, I'll think about it, but right now all I worry about is winning games.

"The reason you play the season is to go to the World Series. That's what it's all about for me, trying to get to the World Series. I've already been to the All-Star Game; I know what that's all about. I haven't been to a World Series. Right now, it's about getting to the playoffs and then to the World Series.

"That's my goal."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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