Mauer snaps up fifth All-Star nod

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer is an All-Star once again.

The Twins catcher was named to the American League roster for the 2012 All-Star game. It will be Mauer’s fifth All-Star appearance in his nine-year career.

“Any time you get asked to go to an All-Star game, it’s a great honor,” Mauer said before Sunday’s series finale against Kansas City. “Obviously, after the season we had last year — and the season I had last year — it’s nice to go. It’s just kind of hit me that I’ll be heading there.”

While Mauer will be making the trip to Kansas City for the All-Star Game next week, teammate Josh Willingham will not despite an impressive first half of the season. Willingham is tied for the team lead with 16 home runs and leads Minnesota with 52 RBI. He is batting .268/.381/.532 through 74 games.

But Willingham did not garner a selection among American League outfielders despite being one of the Twins’ most productive and consistent hitters this year.

“I was hoping to bring a couple (teammates) with me,” Mauer said. “We had a lot of guys in there that had great years and are definitely deserving.”

Prior to Sunday, Mauer was batting .325 with a league-high on-base percentage of .416. He has driven in 36 runs, hit four homers (including one Saturday) and 17 doubles. Perhaps most importantly, Mauer has stayed healthy this season. After playing in just 82 games last year due to injuries, Mauer has already played in 69 games in 2012, fourth-most on the Twins.

“He’s had a few times where he’s had to miss a few ballgames here and there, but he’s played through an awful lot this year,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mauer. “To be recognized like that is a nice thing. He is an All-Star, there’s no doubt. One of the best catchers in this league — if not, the best catcher in the league — offensively and defensively.”

Mauer, a former AL MVP and three-time batting champion, was also an All-Star in 2006 and from 2008-10. His .325 average is currently tops among all American League catchers and second in baseball behind Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz (.358).

“Joe Mauer’s again hitting (.325) and getting it done,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “You don’t find many catchers that do those things.”

This year’s All-Star Game will be played on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

“I’m sure Kansas City will put on a great show. Usually those kind of markets do,” Mauer said. “I’m excited. Kansas City’s a great baseball town. I think it’ll be fun.”

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