Pence earns ASG starting nod at DH

June 28th, 2019

A few months ago, was fighting for a spot on the Rangers' Opening Day roster. Now, he'll be starting in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, as the American League's designated hitter.

Pence -- who was a National League All-Star reserve in 2009, '11 and '14 -- didn't have many suitors during free agency last winter after slashing .226/.258/.332 in 97 games with the Giants in '18. In February, the veteran outfielder finally settled for a Minor League contract from Texas with an invitation to Spring Training. After averaging just 97 games per season from 2015-18, he had to prove he still belonged in the big leagues.

At 36, Pence has proved that and more. After overhauling his swing during Spring Training, Pence has rejuvenated his career with one of his best seasons yet. He's been one of the AL's top hitters during the first half, slashing .294/.353/.608 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs in 55 games as the Rangers' primary DH. He was the runaway winner at the position in the Starters Election with 46.7 percent of the fan vote, easily surpassing runner-ups (31.2 percent) and (22 percent).

Pence is currently on the injured list with a right groin strain, but he is nearing a return. He's been running and taking live batting practice, and he's expected to begin a rehab assignment at the start of next week.

Pence's teammate was not voted to the starting lineup despite also having a strong case. Gallo, who homered twice during Thursday's win against the Tigers, has 19 homers and 44 RBIs to complement a .279/.427/.676 slash line through 53 games. Gallo's numbers might be even more impressive, too, had he not spent much of June on the injured list with a left oblique strain that likely hampered his candidacy. He ranked seventh among AL outfielders with 305,012 votes -- about 115,000 shy of third-place Michael Brantley.

While Gallo and the other runners-up are not automatically named All-Star reserves, they still have a chance to make this year's team. Pitchers and reserves will be named on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.

Those All-Stars will be selected via a group effort between their fellow players and the Commissioner's Office. The player ballots, which will be collected in all 30 clubhouses shortly before the roster announcements, will account for 17 of the remaining AL All-Stars -- eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers), as well as one backup for each position (including the DH in the AL). The Commissioner's Office will then name the remaining six AL players (four pitchers and two position players), while ensuring that all 15 AL teams are represented.

The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on Tuesday, July 9, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.