Mike Hessman hasn't given any thought to visiting Albuquerque, N.M., in mid-July.
He should, though, because he's a virtual lock to earn a berth on the International League squad that will play in the Triple-A All-Star game in Albuquerque's Isotopes Park July 11.
The IL will announce its starting lineup for the game this afternoon. The lineup was chosen in a vote that includes input from fans, league media and the IL office.
"I don't look at the stats sheet or read the papers," Hessman said when asked about his chances to make the all-star team. "I just go out there and stay with what I've been doing, and good things have been happening so far.
"It would be awesome to be on that team, especially after the year I had last year."
Hessman struggled at the plate much of last season, his second with the Hens. After batting .214 with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs in 2005 he hit just .165 with 24 home runs and only 49 RBIs last season.
"I give all the credit to that staff last year for sticking by me," Hessman said. "We got some things figured out, and some of that stuff is starting to show up now. So I give a lot of credit to them for sticking by me. It's good to put up some numbers that show what I'm capable of."
Hessman said the work centered on both changing his swing and improving his mental approach.
"Before I was trying to swing up on the ball, and that wasn't working for me," Hessman said. "Now I'm trying to swing down, and that's how my swing works."
The results began to show in last year's playoffs, when Hessman hit .306 with five homers and nine RBIs. The home run and RBI totals were tops in the playoffs.
But the work really paid off this year. Hessman leads the IL in both home runs (23) and RBIs (75). What's more, his RBI total is the best in minor-league baseball, while his home run total trails only Omaha's Craig Brazell.
Hessman, who has a solid .268 batting average, watched Indianapolis use a shift that put three infielders on the left side of second base.
"I saw that kind of shift a few times in Double-A, but I didn't pay much attention to it," Hessman said. "I focused on the pitcher, not where they were playing me. I'm not trying to change my swing to shoot a ball to right field. I'm trying to get a pitch to hit hard."
KARNUTH UPDATE: Mud Hens trainer Matt Rankin said pitcher Jason Karnuth had successful surgery to reconstruct his face on June 18. The surgery was performed by Dr. Frank Barone at the Surgery Center at Regency Park in Toledo.
Rankin said he had no indication when Karnuth might return.
THREE-DOT DATA: Chris Shelton celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday by smacking a double and scoring twice. Ramon Santiago extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the second. Ryan Raburn has a nine-game streak after a first-inning single. Ottawa first baseman Randy Ruiz played in the first Triple-A game of his nine-year career. He had played 802 professional games, none above the Double-A level.35.00502 -87.82111