PRO BASEBALL: Twins’ Glen Perkins, Kurt Suzuki named to All-Star Game
MINNEAPOLIS -- In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s announcement, Glen Perkins tried to play it cool.
If he were selected for the first Twin Cities All-Star Game in three decades, that would be great. If not, so be it.
After the Twins closer finally learned he would be joining catcher Kurt Suzuki at Target Field on July 15, Perkins came clean.
“It was a lot of pressure this year to get here — for a lot of different people and the pressure I put on myself,” Perkins said. “I did everything I could do to be here. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It’s a dream come true.”
With injured first baseman Joe Mauer limited to an ambassador’s role, it will be left to Perkins, the pride of Stillwater and the University of Minnesota, to represent his home state before the watchful gaze of the sports world.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire could tell what that meant to Perkins after he informed him privately he had made the team.
“He took a deep breath and sighed,” Gardenhire said. “He was really excited. It was something that was weighing on his mind heavily and something he was thinking about an awful lot. This was something he wanted very badly and rightfully so.”
Perkins earned the call by converting 20 of 23 save opportunities and posting a nine-inning strikeout rate of 11.89, seventh-best among American League relievers and third-best among closers.
His 3.22 earned run average ranked 40th among 57 AL relievers with 30-plus innings, but his 1.84 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ranked sixth.
This was the second straight all-star selection for Perkins, who had the privilege of warming up in the same bullpen as all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera last July at New York’s Citi Field. Perkins, 31, wasn’t afforded an opportunity to pitch in that game, but he hopes his participation in this year’s event goes beyond watching another Yankees legend (Derek Jeter) make his all-star farewell.
“Hopefully I’ve got a little better chance,” Perkins said. “I want to run on that field for the All-Star Game.”
Suzuki, 30, earned the first all-star nod of his eight-year career in the majors. Signed as a free agent on a one-year, $2.75 million deal in December, the durable backstop has enjoyed a breakout first half with the bat after being traded in midseason the previous two years.
His .366 on-base percentage led AL catchers with at least 220 plate appearances, and Suzuki has drawn consistent praise from Twins players and coaches for his handling of the pitching staff.
“After the last two years, there’s definitely a little bit of doubt in there,” Suzuki said. “But you try to stay positive and put in a lot of hard work and time and try to go out there and just play. I believed in myself. I felt capable of doing it. It was just a matter of going out there and performing.”
Suzuki joins World Series hero Jack Morris (1991) as the only Twins to achieve all-star distinction in the first year after signing as free agents.
Suzuki participated in the 2006 All-Star Futures Game as a Double-A prospect in the Oakland A’s system, but the only year he felt he had a shot at selection for the big game was 2009. Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey was chosen instead.
Like Suzuki, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier consistently polled in the top five of fan voting at his position for the past two months. Dozier’s 2.8 Wins Above Replacement ranked third among AL second basemen, but he was bypassed in Sunday’s selections.
It was possible Dozier might still be elected via the five-man Final Vote or perhaps even chosen to represent the AL in the Home Run Derby.
Perkins, who signed a three-year contract extension this spring that binds him to his hometown team through at least 2018, becomes the seventh pitcher in Twins history to earn consecutive all-star nods. He joins Joe Nathan, Johan Santana, Eddie Guardado, Rick Aguilera, Jim Perry and Camilo Pascual.
Each all-star is given six tickets for friends and family. Perkins expects his rooting section to be “somewhere in the 20s” this time, which means he has some work to do as the Twins head west on a weeklong road trip.
“That’s all right,” he said. “That’s a good problem to have.”
Other Twins representatives this year will be Gardenhire (AL coach), athletic trainer Dave Pruemer and strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano.
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