SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford was hitting .232 with just one homer when he came to the ballpark last July 1. Upon arriving, Crawford found out that he had received 3.6 million All-Star votes, finishing about 300,000 votes short of being voted in as a starter.

"With my first-half stats last year, it would have been a little embarrassing," Crawford said this week, smiling.

Crawford rode a fan vote wave that helped Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera get starting spots and Freddy Sanchez, who didn't play a single game all season, place fourth among second basemen.

This time around, Crawford likely won't need the boost from the ballot-stuffing locals.

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants follows through on an RBI single scoring Nick Noonan during the fifth inning
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants follows through on an RBI single scoring Nick Noonan during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) ( Brian Kersey )

Through the season's first month, the 26-year-old is a strong All-Star candidate based simply on what he has done on the field: a .271 average, five homers, 17 runs, 15 RBIs, an OPS of .869 and the usual Gold Glove-caliber defense at shortstop.

"The kid is getting better and better," manager Bruce Bochy said. "His confidence has really grown."

Teammates laud Crawford's work ethic and his desire to bring his bat up to the level that his glove long ago hit. During spring training, Crawford took a tip from minor league hitting instructor Steve Decker and started holding his hands higher while keeping his front shoulder more stationary.

Crawford said the adjustments have allowed him to keep a shorter approach to the ball, and the results have been easy to see.


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"I feel like I'm just consistently hitting the ball harder," Crawford said.

He's also hitting it deeper. Crawford had seven career homers coming into the season but hit five in April. The only MLB shortstop to hit more last month was Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki.

"I figured the power would come a little," Crawford said. "I've never been a guy who tries to hit home runs, but I know I have some power."

The power and improved approach have helped keep Crawford in the lineup on a daily basis after he often sat against left-handers a year ago. Crawford and Hunter Pence are the only two Giants to start every game thus far, and Crawford knows that it won't be long before pitchers take note and start treating him differently.

Then, it will be up to him to adjust again, and the Giants are confident that Crawford, who spends as much time in the video room as any Giant, will.

"It's a lot of hard work on his part and what's important is that he is willing to make the adjustments," Bochy said. "Brandon has really made nice strides from last year to this spring and this season with his at-bats. He's short to the ball and he's using the whole field really well. I like where he is at right now."