Angels' Guerrero to start All-Star Game

Angels' Guerrero to start All-Star Game

ANAHEIM -- It is a testament to a player's popularity and achievements to get voted into the All-Star Game, and Vladimir Guerrero is clearly a fan favorite.

The Angels outfielder has carved a niche that routinely elevates his name into the top tier of balloting for the All-Star Game, and 2006 was no exception, as he placed third in American League voting behind Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter.

Guerrero will start in the outfield for the AL squad in the annual Midsummer Classic to be played Tuesday, July 9, at Pittsburgh's PNC Park. It will be the third straight and fourth All-Star start for Guerrero, who will be the Angels' lone representative. He's now made seven appearances in 10 Major League seasons.

"This feeling never gets old. It is good when the fans recognize you," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "To go in as an Angel, it is a special feeling. I feel that I really have found a home here."

Guerrero homered Sunday to increase his team-leading total to 17. He also has a team-leading 58 RBIs, but dropped his average down to .284 during a recent drought that was fueled by a 6-for-45 slump. It is the latest point in his career that he's batted below .300.

He's gone 7-for-15 in his last four games, though, to provide a sign that he is finding his stroke and poised to regain the form that has averaged 38 home runs, 117 RBIs and a .322 average throughout his career.

The 2004 American League MVP still possesses one of the strongest arms in baseball and has five outfield assists this season.

Perhaps because of their slow start this year, the Angels only received the one All-Star bid. Relievers Francisco Rodriguez and Scot Shields and shortstop Orlando Cabrera all made strong cases but were left off both the roster and the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Final Vote.

Cabrera doubled and scored Sunday to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 59 games. He also stole home for the first straight steal of the plate by the Angels since Tony Phillips turned the trick on June 28, 1997. Cabrera's streak is a club record and the longest streak since 1960. Ted Williams holds the Major League mark of 84 games, which he set in 1949.

"I don't think we have as many deserving candidates this year as we've had in the past years," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I was hoping that Orlando would get considered, but we've talked about the process and the system will delete some guys. Orlando is deserving. You can't say anything more."

Usually a second-half player, Cabrera is having the best first half of his career, hitting .299 with 44 RBIs and leading the Angels with 55 runs scored. He is on pace to score more than 100 runs for the first time in his career. Scioscia recently moved the shortstop to the No. 3 spot in the lineup to give his hot hitter a chance to drive in more runs and spark a struggling offense.

Cabrera won a Gold Glove with the Montreal Expos in 2001 but has never appeared in an All-Star Game.

"I wasn't really paying attention to that. I always thought that if it happened, it happened -- cool. If not, I already got my tickets to Colombia," Cabrera said. "There are a lot of guys having good seasons at shortstop."

Guerrero was disappointed.

"I feel bad for Orlando. He is having such a great year and is a good friend," Guerrero said. "We go way back to Montreal. Many guys don't know him because they don't see him, but he does so much for this team."

Though they haven't had as many chances as in the past, Shields and Rodriguez have formed a powerful back end of the Angels bullpen again this year. Rodriguez has converted 19 of 21 save opportunities and is holding right-handed hitters to a .167 average. On Sunday, he struck out the side in the ninth inning.

Shields only recently saw his ERA jump to over 2.00 and holds a 4-5 record in relief. The dependable reliever, who pitched the most innings of any reliever from 2004-2005, has not allowed a run to score in 27 of his 35 appearances. He tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday.

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