SAN DIEGO – There are points on the map that are further from New York City than Brawley, Calif.
But it sure doesn’t seem that way to Sergio Romo.
“I never really saw myself making an All-Star team,” said Romo, who received the official nod that everyone knew he’d get on Sunday. “I never sat there and said that’s one of my goals. Now that it’s happening, I’m just very proud.”
Giants manager and NL skipper Bruce Bochy planned all along to take Romo as a replacement for one of several NL All-Star pitchers who would be ineligible, either because of injury or a Sunday start. He made sure Romo got plenty of notice so his family could make travel arrangements.
There will be tres generaciones of la familia Romo at the game at Citi Field. Romo is taking his father, Francisco, and his eldest son, Rilen.
An undersized right-hander, a 28th-round draft pick, a native son of a small agricultural border town near the Salton Sea -- nothing about Romo signaled that he would be an All-Star.
Now he is.
“To be honest, I still feel I weaseled my way to the big leagues,” he said. “I feel very fortunate, very spoiled for everything I’ve been a part of in the big leagues. I mean, the no-hitters, two World Series, two parades, two rings with my name on them … I’m spoiled and privileged and blessed. I’m proud of the ride.
“My teammates congratulated me and they said that I was deserving. To hear they feel that way, that’s the most gratifying thing about it.”
What if Romo is asked to face Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera? Would he try to sneak another fastball past him, as he did to clinch the World Series?
“If he puts me in that situation, it is what it is,” said Romo, who burst into a laughing fit, possibly because he started to envision facing the Triple Crown winner in the All-Star Game. “I’ll see him in the batter’s box, I guess. … I might be throwing knuckleballs at the guy. You never know.”
In all likelihood, Cabrera would be out of the game long before Romo would appear. But if the opportunity presented itself, would Bochy be interested in replaying that matchup?
“That’s a possibility,” said Bochy, smiling. “That’d create a lot of interest.”
Bochy said he tried hard to find a way to get Romo on the 2011 team, when he picked the reserves. He knows some might take offense that a team with a losing record is getting a fourth representative, joining first-timers Marco Scutaro and Madison Bumgarner as well as Buster Posey.
But Bochy said Romo has earned this honor. He's recorded 21 saves in 24 chances, and is 30 for 33 since taking over the role last August. That doesn't count what he did in three rounds of the postseason, of course, when he had a 0.84 ERA and four saves in 10 appearances.
“What he did last year, I’m not going to lie, that has something to do with it,” Bochy said. “But it wasn’t just last year. His numbers since he got here have been amazing, with the walks and strikeouts. Now he’s our closer and he’s earned this.”
Bochy had some other last-minute additions to make, including an unexpected position player to add after the Braves’ Freddie Freeman jammed his thumb.
Freeman won the final fan vote over the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig. But Bochy wasn’t under any obligation to take the runner-up, and although he’s been asked constantly about the Dodgers’ rookie sensation, he said it was more pragmatic for him to take a third catcher.
So he took Atlanta’s Brian McCann, instead.
Bochy said the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina is dealing with sore knees, and he didn’t want to overtax Posey, his own guy. He also wanted to reserve the right to pinch run for Posey if needed.
He remembered being Charlie Manuel’s bench coach in the 2010 game at Anaheim, when McCann was used off the bench and caught the final few innings with no other backups. Molina had injured his hand in that game.
“If something happened, there, I don’t know what we would’ve done,” Bochy said. “Nothing would be more embarrassing in an All-Star Game than running out of catchers.”
Well, running out of pitchers isn’t so swift, either. You could ask Bud Selig about that.
One more thing Bochy remembered from that 2010 game: McCann hit the double that put the NL ahead, and broke the AL’s lengthy stranglehold on the All-Star Game. As it so happened, McCann’s hit also gave the Giants home-field advantage in the World Series that year.
“You don’t forget those things,” Bochy said, smiling.