TORONTO — Joe Mauer seemed to be a lock to make his sixth American League All-Star team — but would he get to bring a friend?
Closer Glen Perkins is in the middle of a dominant season but, as a product of the 37-47 Twins, he entered Saturday just seventh in the all-important saves category. Detroit manager Jim Leyland, who will run the AL team, came to the rescue.
Leyland personally named Perkins to the All-Star team, giving the Twins two players at the Midsummer’s Classic on July 16 at Citi Field in New York.
It also will be the first time that two Twins players with local ties were on the same All-Star team, as both Mauer and Perkins are 30-year-olds who were born in St. Paul and faced each other as Little Leaguers.
“Good story,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Two Minnesota kids.”
Both players were informed of their selection immediately following the Twins’ 6-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday at Rogers Centre.
Mauer was the people’s choice to start for the fourth time in six All-Star selections. He is batting .314 with eight home runs and 30 RBI. He leads AL catchers in batting average, on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
Perkins took over as Twins closer last summer and finished 2012 with 16 saves and a 2.56 ERA. He has taken off from there this season, converting 20 of 22 save opportunities while posting a 1.93 ERA. His 0.79 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) entering Saturday was the lowest of any closer in baseball.
“Those guys are unbelievable,” Twins righthander Mike Pelfrey said. “I don’t think anybody is shocked. They’re obviously very deserving. Glen has been unbelievable and Joe is Joe. It’s fun to watch. You wish them the best and no one in here is surprised at all.”
Perkins’ played mental gymnastics right until he was told he was an All-Star. One minute he thought he was shoo-in. Then he would think about all the quality closers in the league and change his mind.
Then he learned that Leyland picked him for the team.
“When I go out there and pitch, it’s about the numbers and that stuff but it’s also about respecting the other team and the game,” Perkins said. “Having Jim Leyland managing the team is quite an honor. I’ve played against him for a long time. I know he chose me for the team, so I will be happy to thank him.”
Perkins, the former Gophers standout and a Twins first-round pick in 2004, is riding a wave that began during the preseason when he played for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic. Mauer, the first overall pick in 2001, is a Team USA veteran too, so Perkins picked the right teammate’s path to follow this season.
“It’s awesome,” Mauer said. “Everyone agrees that he is well-deserving, I’m very proud for him and we are going to have a lot of fun. It’s been really nice to see Glen to evolve into one of the best back end guys. Everyone in here knew he was one of the best bullpen guys and now everybody knows.
“It’s more fun when you have a teammate to share it with. I’ve always said as long as they keep having me I would love to go. It’s great, it’s exciting it and an honor. To bring a teammate for his first time, it’s a lot of fun.”