Twins send two arms to All-Star Game
Santana earns first selection; Nathan named for second time
MINNEAPOLIS -- One man is an indispensable leader of the rotation. The other anchors one of the game's more dependable bullpens.Both will be representing the Twins as All-Stars. Starting pitcher Johan Santana and closer Joe Nathan were named American League All-Stars on Sunday. It will be Santana's first trip and Nathan's second to the Midsummer Classic, which will be played July 12 at Detroit. Center fielder Torii Hunter has a chance to become a third Twins representative at the All-Star Game as one of five candidates for the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote. He faces competition from New York's Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, Tampa Bay OF Carl Crawford and White Sox OF Scott Podsednik. "We're very proud of those guys," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the Twins' selections. "We're very happy with that situation." "They deserve it," said Hunter, a 2002 All-Star starter. "I've been congratulating those guys all day." The All-Star Game, to be held at Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 7 p.m. CT, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet. Santana is 7-4 with a 3.74 ERA with two complete games in 17 starts this season. "It's an honor to have the opportunity to go to the All-Star Game and be around all those All-Stars," said Santana, who was selected via a vote of Major League players. "It's going to be fun and something to remember. Hopefully, I'll represent the Twins the way they should be." The 30-year-old Nathan, who was also selected by the players, owns the AL lead with 23 saves in 25 chances this season, and has saved his last 10 chances in a row. He felt returning to the Midsummer Classic was even sweeter the second time. "Definitely. I think it's even more rewarding to be able to come back," said Nathan, who is 1-3 with a 3.57 ERA in 37 appearances this season. He has struck out 43 batters in 35 1/3 innings. "This time, it will be nice because I'll have my [baby] son there," Nathan added. "He's not going to know it, but it will still be nice for me to have him there and go through the experience with him." The 26-year-old Santana is coming off back-to-back lackluster outings, but remains on the leaderboard in several pitching categories in 2005. He owns a commanding Major League lead with 140 strikeouts. He is first in the AL in opponents batting average (.220), second in walks/hits per innings pitched (1.01) and third in innings pitched with 118.
"Johan's been throwing the ball very good," Gardenhire said. "He's an All-Star in this league for sure."Everyone in baseball remembers Santana's special 2004 season, when he was unanimously elected as the AL Cy Young Award winner and became the first Venezuelan to ever earn the honor. Despite a slow start in the first half, he went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts, which included going a dominating 13-0 after the All-Star break. It was vital to the Twins' third-straight AL Central title. "Johan deserved it last year, but he got started a little late," Hunter said. "He's a Cy Young winner going to his first All-Star game and I'm very happy for him." In 2004, Nathan converted 44 of 47 save chances for Minnesota while going 1-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 73 games. He endured a bumpy stretch along with the rest of the club in June of this season. Save chances weren't plentiful and he allowed seven earned runs over 10 innings, all in non-save situations. "We went through kind of a dry spell with Nathan," Gardenhire said. "It looked like it made it iffy for him, but when he's gotten the opportunities to shut games down for us, he's done a great for us." "This year, there's been more adjustments, more of a learning curve coming back," Nathan said. "Obviously, hitters got more of a look [at me] last year and they picked up some things. It's been a matter of making adjustments. I'm thrilled to go there [to the All-Star game] again. It's going to be fun." There were other Twins that would have been good candidates as All-Stars. Setup man Jesse Crain is 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA. Starting pitcher Carlos Silva has only six wins, but owns a 3.55 ERA. Hunter has 14 home runs and 51 RBIs this season and batted .330 in June, but now must count on fans voting in the Ameriquest Final Vote to be added to the AL squad this week. "There's a lot of guys who deserve it from this team," Twins starting pitcher Joe Mays said. "I think the last few years, the way we played, more guys deserved to go to the All-Star Game," Santana said. "But sometimes, it's tough. It's not just up to the players. It's up to fans and the managers."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.