Pence, Bumgarner hopeful Giants' All-Star contingent will grow

Pence, Bumgarner hopeful Giants' All-Star contingent will grow
July 6, 2014, 6:15 pm
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He got on track and then he just took off. The start he had, he didn’t let it faze him. He’s been the guy scoring runs for us. He’s been our catalyst.
Bruce Bochy on Hunter Pence

SAN DIEGO –- Madison Bumgarner still hopes Tim Hudson will be able to join him on the NL All-Star team as a replacement pick.

Hunter Pence was excited to receive his third All-Star invite, but crestfallen that bromance buddy Michael Morse isn’t coming along.

In a way, All-Star selection day mirrored the Giants’ first half. They’re grateful to be in the thick of things, appreciative of what they have. But they know they should have so much more.

A team that gave back every bit of a 9 ½-game lead in the NL West over a three-week slide ended up sending two players to the Midsummer Classic –- far fewer than the crosstown A’s, who netted seven names when you add in Jeff Samardzija’s good work with the Chicago Cubs that merited him a spot.

[RELATED: Pence, Bumgarner to represent Giants in All-Star game]

The Giants, unlike the A’s, don’t have the best record in their league any longer.

A month ago, the Giants might have sent five or six players, too. Instead they’ll be represented by Bumgarner, who won’t be eligible to pitch because he’s starting the Sunday before the break, and Pence, who simply never takes a day off.

“I prefer being around the game, taking batting practice and putting the uniform on and moving around,” Pence said. “I don’t ever go on vacations. I keep my mind locked on the game.”

That’s what you’d expect from a player whose 310 consecutive games played now stands as the longest active streak in the major leagues, after Kansas City’s Billy Butler rested on Sunday. Pence has played all but five innings for the Giants in right field this season.

He had three hits and scored three runs from the leadoff spot to back Tim Lincecum in a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.

“With Hunter, it’s incredible what his numbers are considering his start,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He got on track and then he just took off. The start he had, he didn’t let it faze him. He’s been the guy scoring runs for us. He’s been our catalyst.”

The Giants have needed that catalyst with Angel Pagan out with a bad back since his outfield escapades contributed to two losses to the Colorado Rockies June 13-14. The Giants were swept in that series, which provided grease for the slide.

Pence was one of few players whose performance didn’t erode along with their lead in the NL West. He’s tied for second in the NL with 106 hits and also tied for second with 64 runs. He’s making his third All-Star appearance and his first since 2011 with the Houston Astros.

“I’m tremendously grateful I have the opportunity,” Pence said. “I try my best not to take a single game for granted because it’s been a dream since I was a kid to play in the major leagues.

“I was really hoping for Morse to make it as well. I’m very happy but a part of me is … well, hopeful he’ll still come.”

Pence had such deep disappointment in his voice, you wonder if he’ll invite Morse to the All-Star gala as his plus-one.

Bumgarner is hoping Hudson can find a route to Minnesota, too. Hudson is sixth in the NL with a 2.53 ERA but two pitchers ahead of him –- Henderson Alvarez and Josh Beckett -– were snubbed, too. Beckett threw a no-hitter as well.

There’s still a chance, though. Bumgarner is starting the Sunday before the break, so NL manager Mike Matheny can name another pitcher to replace him on the active roster. Three other NL pitchers are slated to pitch on Sunday (Johnny Cueto, Julio Teheran and Tyson Ross), although rotation changes or rain can amend those plans.

Hudson, who turns 39 next week, wasn’t sure if he’d ever pitch again after fracturing his ankle a year ago in July. He’s got a deep-sea fishing trip scheduled for the break, but whether it’s fully refundable or not, he’ll ditch those plans if he can detour to Minnesota.

“I’m really happy for my teammates,” Hudson said. “There are a lot of deserving players in this league and you can only take so many. Whether I’m able to go or not, I’m really happy with the first half I had and I want to carry it over to a good if not better second half and help us win.”

About Bumgarner, Hudson said: “He’s really young. You forget how young he is. He’s excited about going and he should be. He works harder than anyone.”

Bochy said there’s no chance Bumgarner would pitch in the All-Star Game, which is fine with the left-hander. He didn’t pitch last year, either, as Bochy held him back for long relief.

“Yeah, but that’s all right,” said Bumgarner, who ranked fourth on the player ballot, behind Cueto, Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw -- a ballot that was turned in before he gave up 10 runs in his last two starts to plump up his ERA. “Helping here takes precedent. Just to be invited means everything in the world. … Last year Bochy took me and I’m not complaining at all. It’s a huge honor to be recognized your fellow players, too.”

Bumgarner might try to participate in another way. Could he set a precedent and become the first pitcher in the Home Run Derby?

“I asked,” Bumgarner said. “I haven’t heard back from (NL captain Troy) Tulowitzki.”

Pence would compete in the derby too, if asked. He still treasures the memory from an All-Star derby in Arizona, when he and his brother watched the show with Frank Thomas seated right behind them. The Pence brothers grew up playing Whiffle ball , drafting derby teams and pretending to be big league heavy hitters.

“We used to draft Frank Thomas and now we’re watching the derby with him,” Pence said. “That stands out. That was pretty cool.”

What about watching Bumgarner swing for the fences?

“Bum would be good,” Pence laughed. “But I don’t think fans want to see pitchers in the home run derby.”