Twins fans have been debating how many of their favorite players will be named to the American League All-Star team, and they will find out Sunday who makes the squad.
Third baseman Miguel Sano, righthander Ervin Santana and even righthander Jose Berrios have been mentioned as possibilities. But there’s one more Twin who should receive serious consideration.
Brandon Kintzler, thrust into the closing role last year when Glen Perkins went down with an injury, has a chance of being in Miami for the Midsummer Classic.
It would be quite an accomplishment for Kintzler, a former St. Paul Saint who was signed as a free agent before the 2016 season at the suggestion of special assistant Wayne Krivsky.
Kintzler entered Saturday tied for second in the AL — and third in baseball — with 21 saves. His 2.62 ERA was solid for a closer, as was his 1.08 walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP). He is not blessed with a blazing fastball like Boston’s Craig Kimbrel and doesn’t present an imposing figure on the mound like Cleveland’s Andrew Miller. Kintzler is a sinkerballer. Since he’s not a big strikeout guy (23 in 34⅓ innings) he can’t afford the occasional walk like the flamethrowers can. And he’s done that, with just seven walks.
“Hard worker,” pitching coach Neil Allen said of Kintzler. “Where would we be without him? Very deserving.”
What works in Kintzler’s favor is the specialization of All-Star bullpens. The 2016 AL team included nine relievers, and the 2015 team had seven. Setup men can be All-Stars, as Miller was on last year’s team and Houston’s Chris Devenski could be on this year’s team. Having more relievers helps Kintzler’s case.
Here are some thoughts on the Twins’ other All-Star candidates:
Sano: Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez made a late charge as voting concluded on Thursday evening, making the position up for grabs as the election results will be read on Sunday. Sano will be in Miami as a participant in the Home Run Derby, though.
Santana: He was the best starting pitcher in baseball for about two months but posted a 6.03 ERA in June. He still leads with 6.7 hits per nine innings and has three complete games, all shutouts. Should get the appointment.
Berrios: The Twins should be rewarded with more than one All-Star to reflect the half-season they have had. But is there enough room for Berrios, who has been a revelation this season? Not sure. One thing that hurts him is the number of relievers likely to be selected. Don’t think there is room for both Santana and Berrios.
“He’s pitched well enough to go,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Obviously, not being here from Day 1, and some other guys having good years, will make it tough.”
Indians: Tyler Naquin last season looked to be Cleveland’s center fielder of the future. This year, Cleveland called up Bradley Zimmer, its first-round pick in 2014, and has to be pleased with the results. Zimmer hit .291 over his first 39 games with a .366 on-base percentage. He doesn’t try to do too much at the plate and is willing to use the opposite field. Definitely a young player to watch.
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Royals: With no one taking control of the division, Kansas City’s recent surge has the Royals back in the picture. And they have done some of it without staff ace Danny Duffy, who has been out because of an oblique injury. But Duffy is in the middle of a rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Omaha and could be back in the next 10 days. Duffy tweeted recently that no one in Kansas City has made vacation plans in October.
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Tigers: Anibal Sanchez has been an expensive reliever, as he spent the early part of the year earning his $16 million salary out in the bullpen. But he went to Class AAA Toledo to get stretched out again and has entered the Tigers rotation with success. He posted a 2.45 ERA in his first two starts, with nine strikeouts in 11 innings. If Sanchez has regained his starter’s touch, it’s a big boost for Detroit.
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White Sox: Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected 65 times in his career. White Sox skipper Rick Renteria might be the new version of Gardy. Renteria was ejected three times over a six-game span during Chicago’s current 10-game homestand. That makes it five this season and 11 for his career. Renteria appears to be fiery, like Gardenhire, and is not afraid to stand up for his players.
Three observations …
Hopefully this is not the end for righthander Bartolo Colon, above, who was designated for assignment on Thursday. The second half of his career definitely has been more entertaining than the first half, as he found ways to get hitters out into his mid-40s.
You think the Twins need pitching help before the trade deadline? Baltimore’s staff posted a 6.30 ERA in June, worst in baseball. The Orioles are lucky to be just a handful of games out of first place.
The Twins in August will play Milwaukee in a pair of two-game series. MLB needs to stop this. Interleague rival series should always be three games at home, then three on the road.
… and two predictions
The Cubs will lead the NL Central by four games by the end of July.
The Twins will go 5-2 on their upcoming homestand.