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Hand ready to make first All-Star appearance

Padres reliever looks forward to making his return to Miami
MLB.com @JamalCollier

MIAMI -- It had not occurred to Padres reliever Brad Hand that he might be named an All-Star until a few weeks ago. The left-hander knew he was having a good year, but it's not easy for non-closers to be selected. Yet, as he was watching TV before the teams were announced, his name came up as the potential representative for his club.

Hand thought it would be cool to go back to Miami, plus, he makes his home in Jupiter, Fla., meaning his entire family will be in attendance for his first All-Star appearance.

MIAMI -- It had not occurred to Padres reliever Brad Hand that he might be named an All-Star until a few weeks ago. The left-hander knew he was having a good year, but it's not easy for non-closers to be selected. Yet, as he was watching TV before the teams were announced, his name came up as the potential representative for his club.

Hand thought it would be cool to go back to Miami, plus, he makes his home in Jupiter, Fla., meaning his entire family will be in attendance for his first All-Star appearance.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

Once a cast-off by the Marlins, Hand is making a rather triumphant return for the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard (today, 4:30 p.m. PT on FOX). After he was cut by the Marlins before the 2016 season, the Padres were quick to snatch him off waivers and convert him to a full-time reliever. Hand's journey has come full circle.

"It feels normal," Hand said. "I was comfortable here, I played here, so it's not a new environment for me. That makes it a little easier."

During parts of four seasons with the Marlins, Hand posted a 4.71 ERA. Hand has flourished since he arrived in San Diego, and the Padres certainly allowed him to do so. No one has made more appearances or pitched more relief innings. He ranks third in the Majors in relief strikeouts during that time, between only Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

This season, Hand owns a 2.30 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 42 games (47 innings). He's capable of pitching multiple innings, and his wipeout slider has been effective against hitters from both sides of the plate.

"That pitch has came a long ways," Hand said. "It's one of my key pitches right now. That pitch has gotten better and more consistent and more comfortable with it for sure."

After last October's bullpen revolution, Hand's versatility in the 'pen and his ability to induce strikeouts have made him one of the most sought-after commodities on the trade market.

Hand has already been linked in trade rumors to the Yankees, Nationals and Dodgers, as all teams that might be searching for bullpen help before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.

"I don't really worry about it," Hand said. "I just worry about what I got to do that day, and what I got to do to prepare myself to be able to play in the game that we're playing that night. At the end of the day, if you sit there and worry about what's going to happen down the road, it's going to effect you in the game that you're playing that night."

Today at 4:30 p.m. PT, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand