Longtime buddies Perkins, Mauer make AL All-Star team

Jim Leyland didn’t have to do too much digging to deem Twins closer Glen Perkins All-Star worthy.

Four appearances against his team this season provided for the Detroit Tigers and American League manager an ample sample size.

Perkins closed out a quartet of Minnesota victories over the Tigers during the season’s first half, never allowing a run. Add that to the eight-year major leaguer’s 1.99 ERA and 20 saves in 22 opportunities — good for seventh in the AL — and Leyland had plenty of evidence to include Perkins among his picks for the 2013 All-Star Game on July 16 at the New York Mets’ Citi Field.

A first-time selection, Perkins joins fellow St. Paul native Joe Mauer, whom fans voted in as the AL’s starting catcher. He’ll play in his sixth All-Star Game and start his fourth.

“I think it still hasn’t sunk in,” Perkins told MLB.com. “It’s a goal that everyone has once they play in the major leagues. I think more than anything, I’m excited to go with Joe. We’ve known each other for a long time and it’s been pretty well-documented this year what we’ve been through. So this is another chapter for that.”

The pair’s careers date back to their Little League days and have included the past eight seasons in the Twin Cities and an appearance on this year’s Team USA squad at the World Baseball Classic.

“It’s an awesome deal,” said Mauer, who’s batting .314 with 30 RBI, 25 doubles and eight home runs. “Obviously to bring a teammate like Glen — we go way back — is really special. So I’m very excited. I’m probably more excited for him, but I’m just excited about everything.”

It’ll be the first time since 2010 the Twins send multiple representatives to the Midsummer Classic. Mauer becomes the third AL catcher to be voted as a starter at least four times since the fans regained voting in 1970, joining Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk.

While 30-year-old Mauer was a virtual lock after leading AL catchers in fan voting at the last update before FOX unveiled the rosters Saturday, Perkins’ status was much more in question. He’ll participate as a replacement for former Twins pitcher Jesse Crain, who’s currently on the Chicago White Sox’s disabled list with a right shoulder strain.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire made his pitch Friday for Perkins’ inclusion, revealing that he’d voted for the 6-foot, 205-pound left-hander. “You can look at all the numbers and the numbers say that he’s an All-Star,” Gardenhire said Saturday after his team’s 6-0 victory at Toronto. “I’m happy that he gets this opportunity. It’s well-deserved.”

Apparently, Leyland listened.

Sporting a WHIP of 0.79 — lower than all 10 major league hurlers who have more saves than he does — Perkins beat out AL saves leader and Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who didn’t receive a nod from either Leyland or player voting. Perkins joins fellow closers Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan (also a former Twin) on the AL roster.

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