Mauer takes a spot in the Derby

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2009 - 9:31 AM

When organizers asked Joe Mauer to participate in this year's All-Star Home Run Derby, he first wanted to see if Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jim O'Neill could be his pitcher.

After all those batting practice sessions with O'Neill, Mauer wanted the chance to do it all over again -- on Monday night at Busch Stadium, before a full house and a national TV audience.

"My high school buddies, we always talk about how money his BP is," Mauer said Friday. "They always tell me if you have a chance, you should invite him. He's helped me out a lot. He was the first guy I thought of."

Once Mauer agreed, Derby organizers tried coaxing Justin Morneau to join him. It would be a chance for the M&M Boys to take center stage.

"It would be fun, but I've already made up my mind," said Morneau, who won last year's Derby but declined to participate this year.

Manager Ron Gardenhire couldn't resist poking fun at the Derby commercial that includes Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton -- but not Morneau, who defeated both of them last year in New York.

"Why would [Morneau] do it? He can't even be on their commercial," Gardenhire said. "Pujols and who else, Hamilton? Who won it?"

Morneau, Hamilton, Mark Teixeira, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki are among the AL players who have declined Derby invites, and Evan Longoria has said he'd prefer not to enter.

Mauer, who has a career-high 15 homers this year, said he always wanted the chance to do it, going back to his days playing home run derby in the back yard.

"There's no question in my mind he'll win," teammate Glen Perkins said. "I'd put my paycheck on it."

After expressing relief that Morneau wasn't participating earlier in the week, Gardenhire gave Mauer his blessing.

"He told me it's a single-up-the-middle-contest, and that's why he joined," Gardenhire said, smiling. "I don't hold these guys back. I know Joe's got a great swing, and he's going to do what he needs to do. I don't think it'll affect him. He'll go out there and probably put a few in the seats, and I think the greatest thing about it is his high school coach is going to throw to him."

Perkins is ready

Perkins felt considerably better Friday and convinced the Twins he is ready to make tonight's start.

Perkins began getting sick Tuesday night and awoke with a 102-degree temperature Wednesday morning, so the Twins scratched him from his start against the Yankees.

"I've never had a sore throat or a fever like that," Perkins said.

The doctors determined he had a virus but not strep throat. He said the medication was working, though he hadn't eaten much for a couple of days.

Perkins, who is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his past four starts, said it bothered him to miss the Yankees, especially after they'd chased him with six first-inning runs May 18.

"Really, the last four starts I've felt as good as I have all year," he said. "It was hard for me to see that [Yankees sweep], and kind of let these guys down."

Etc.

• Mauer, Morneau and Joe Nathan each received a $25,000 bonus for making the All-Star team, as stipulated in their contracts.

• The Twins still plan to have Perkins, Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano pitch the first three games after the All-Star break, against Texas.

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