SAN FRANCISCO -- Rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game in Cleveland are set to be announced Sunday at 2:30 p.m. PT on ESPN, and manager Bruce Bochy believes the Giants have a natural candidate in closer Will Smith.
"It'd be great to see Smitty there," Bochy said Tuesday. "What a year he's had. Nothing would make me happier."
Smith is in the midst of a career season for the Giants, going a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities while pitching to a 1.95 ERA over 32 1/3 innings. His 21 consecutive saves to start the season are the most since Rod Beck converted 28 straight to open his 1994 campaign, according to Stats LLC.
The 29-year-old relief ace entered Tuesday, holding opposing batters to a .209 on-base percentage and a .486 OPS, the second- and third-lowest marks, respectively, among National League relievers. He was also averaging 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, the highest rate of his career.
Acquired from the Brewers in exchange for Phil Bickford and Andrew Susac at the 2016 Trade Deadline, Smith saw a significant chunk of his time with the Giants wiped out by Tommy John surgery, but he's been dominant since returning from the injury.
Since ascending to the closing role last June, Smith has gone 35-for-38 (92.1 percent) in save opportunities for San Francisco, a stretch that will likely make him one of the coveted relief arms ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"Once he got back and we looked at our situation, we thought he had the equipment to close," Bochy said. "He throws hard, he's got a couple breaking balls, and he has a changeup. And he has good command of them. We had to monitor his work early, but as we worked him into it last year and this spring, he was, to me, the best fit to be the closer here. And that's saying a lot because we had three or four other guys who were candidates. I like the way Smitty's handled it. He has brought so much stability to the bullpen, being so consistent out there."
Pitcher selections for the All-Star Game aren't determined by fans, so Smith would have to be elected through a combination of "Player Ballot" choices and selections made by the Commissioner's Office. The Giants didn't have any position players among the finalists to start for the National League this year.
The winners will be unveiled on ESPN starting at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN.
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, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. During the game, fans may visit MLB.com and the 30 club sites to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.
After being shut out by the Rockies on Monday night, Bochy decided to tweak the Giants' lineup, moving first baseman Brandon Belt into the leadoff spot against Colorado right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez.
"Hopefully he gets on base," Bochy said. "He's a good on-base guy, but also he's a power threat. That helps get the offense going, I think it's fair to say, offensively, we've had our struggles. Sometimes you change things to see if you can get out of that rut, especially here at home."
While Bochy has shown a willingness to tinker with parts of his lineup, he said he has not considered dropping Buster Posey out of the heart of the order, even as the Giants' star catcher has fallen into a 5-for-32 (.156) slump in eight games since returning from the injured list. Overall, Posey is batting .239 with a .668 OPS and three home runs over 54 games this season.
"I think one constant is Buster will be somewhere in the three-four-five hole or whatever," Bochy said. "Buster is a guy you can hit-and-run with, he's a contact guy. Sure, you look at the numbers and you go, 'Why is he hitting there?' Well, as a club, we're not swinging the bat very well, let's be honest. So it's not like we have a lot of guys who fit that mold. But his presence, I can guarantee you, it's still there when other teams go against us. And right now, he's a guy that we're going to stay behind. I think it's just a matter of time before he gets on track."