SAN DIEGO -- Padres relief pitcher Heath Bell has only been a Major League closer for two seasons, but consider the impact he's already made. Bell led the National League in saves with 42 last season and appeared in his first All-Star Game.
Bell has saved 23 of 26 games this season for the surprising Padres and finds himself a candidate to return to the Midsummer Classic. Bell is one of five Final Vote candidates for the National League All-Star squad that will face its American League counterpart on July 13 in Anaheim. "You can open up the stat pack and make your case [for Bell]," said Padres manager Bud Black. "This is a performance game, and he's performed." The other candidates are Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez, Cincinnati's Joey Votto, Atlanta's Billy Wagner and Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. "If the San Diego fans get out there and vote, and if I keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully fans watch me on TV, maybe they'll vote me in over some other guys," Bell said. "I can text my friends, go out there and pitch the best I can and vote as many times as I can." Bell has again been a strong presence in the ninth inning for the first-place Padres, armed with a 1.77 ERA. "He's probably the No. 1 guy to go to whenever you need a shut-down inning," said Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos. "He's one of the best at what he does, that's why he's our closer. If there's going to be one more guy that's going to be [in the All-Star Game], it's got to be someone from our 'pen. He's done an unbelievable job so far this year." Bell, who backed up closer Trevor Hoffman during his first two seasons with the Padres (2007-08), has benefited from the two relievers who pitch before him: setup men Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams. "I guarantee you before the season started, nobody knew who they were," Mets infielder Alex Cora said recently. "There are a lot of people out there who don't even know who they are, but they're making a name for themselves." Gregerson, Adams and Bell comprise what is often regarded as the best bullpen in baseball. That Padres 'pen had a 2.38 ERA in June. "We want to be one of the best bullpens in the league," Bell said. "No, we want to be the best bullpen in baseball. We're one of the top now, but we're going to keep trying." Now in its ninth year, the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continues until 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, July 8. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter. Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard rates may apply. The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game. 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.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Gina Mizell contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.