Glen Perkins knows there’s a chance, but he tries not to think about it.
One year after making his first career All-Star Game, the Minnesota Twins closer could be in line to make a return trip this season. That would be extra special for the Stillwater, Minn., native to play in the midsummer classic in his home state and his home ballpark.
But with more than a month to go before the All-Star Game and all the ensuing festivities descend on Target Field in Minneapolis, Perkins is more focused on helping the Twins get back above .500.
"I’m trying not to (think about it), because I don’t want to get caught up in it. It’s kind of been in the back of everyone’s mind for a year now, since they announced that we’re going to have the game," Perkins said. "But you’ve got to worry about other things. I know that I made it last year. If I can do what I did last year again this year, I know that I’ll have a good chance. I’m more worried about just doing my job. That’ll happen if it’s supposed to happen."
Perkins earned the All-Star nod in 2013 in his first full season as the Twins’ closer. By the All-Star break last year Perkins had 20 saves and a 1.93 ERA in 33 appearances. After pitching a scoreless ninth inning Tuesday in Toronto, his ERA currently sits at 2.86 — up a bit from the first half of last season. But his 16 saves are third among American League closers, and he’ll likely have a chance in the next month to match those 20 saves he had at last year’s break.
It helps that the Twins are playing slightly better baseball than they did last year. Perkins has now had 18 save opportunities, blowing two saves while converting the rest. If Minnesota continues to play well in close games, the save opportunities will come Perkins’ way.
"I know our record last year was similar to what it is now, but it’s a completely different feel," Perkins said. "We’ve won some close games. We’ve won a lot of close games, and then we’ve lost some close games. We’ve been in the majority of our games this year. We’re seeing their ninth-inning guy I think way more this year than we have in the past three years. That’s progress. That’s keeping games close."
The Twins have several players on the roster who could represent Minnesota when it hosts the game next month, including Perkins. Second baseman Brian Dozier remains in the top five vote-getters of all AL second basemen, as does Kurt Suzuki among AL catchers. And Twins starter Phil Hughes has put up some impressive numbers as the best pitcher in Minnesota’s rotation.
Although Perkins has only been a ninth-inning guy for less than two seasons, he’s already turned himself into an All-Star closer with a 96-mph fastball and a nasty slider. He’s seen the Twins face tough closers on other teams over the years, and he now hopes opponents despise having to face him in the ninth inning.
"I would hope that it’s not a very comfortable at-bat. I try to make it not be," Perkins said. "I guess the results have spoken to that."
Amid all the fanfare of last year’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, Perkins fondly recalls the experience of playing in front of a packed stadium. The overabundance of fans didn’t just happen during the game, either. During batting practice, thousands of people found their seats to watch some of the best players in baseball take their swings.
There are plenty of other festivities that accompany an All-Star Game, as those in the Twin Cities will soon find out. But in the biggest city in the country, last year’s midsummer classic was almost an afterthought.
"I think it got swallowed up by the city. It was just another thing going on," Perkins said. "I know Joe (Mauer) had said in Kansas City, it was the All-Star Game, and it was everything. And I think that’s how it’ll be here."
Perkins just hopes he’ll have the opportunity to pitch in it when the All-Star Game comes to Target Field. In previous years, he spent his All-Star breaks on a lake in Minnesota or across the border in Wisconsin. He had to cancel those plans last season when he found out he’d be joining Mauer in New York.
There’s still the opportunity that Perkins could be on a lake in mid-July. He just might have to leave a bit early to get ready for the All-Star Game.
"It’s like Joe said, if you have the chance to go, you go. You take the time off at the end of the year," Perkins said. "If I’m lucky enough to make it, I’ll stay here and have a good time. I’d take the All-Star Game over the All-Star break any day."