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Hometown All-Star Game extra-special for Perkins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Glen Perkins can't help but envision what it's going to be like to pitch in front of his home crowd in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Target Field.

Perkins is a Minnesotan through and through, growing up in Stillwater and attending the University of Minnesota before being drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

Perkins was named an All-Star for the first time last season but never saw action at Citi Field. He's hoping this year will be much different, as he'll be pitching in front of a stadium packed with Twins fans, including more than 30 family members.

"I've thought about it a lot," Perkins said. "It'll be a feeling I think will be hard to describe. I don't really even know. It'll be along the lines of my Major League debut at Fenway Park."

Perkins, 31, has come a long way since making that debut in 2006, as he suffered through some forgettable seasons as a starter before being moved to the bullpen in 2011. He's developed into one of the game's best relievers since then, posting a 2.54 ERA with 269 strikeouts and just 59 walks in 234 innings over the last four years.

The thought of pitching well enough to be invited to an All-Star Game in his hometown weighed heavy on him this season, but he was rewarded with his second straight trip to the Midsummer Classic after posting a 2.97 ERA with 22 saves and 49 strikeouts against seven walks in 39 1/3 innings.

"It's pretty neat," said manager Ron Gardenhire, who will serve as a coach for the American League squad. "I know what it meant to him. When I called him in to tell him he made the All-Star team, he was pretty fired up. It was a big sigh of relief. He wanted it. And it's very special to him."

Perkins hasn't been informed by AL skipper John Farrell whether he'll serve as closer, but he remains hopeful he'll be able to close out a victory for his squad.

"That would be the best and most exciting thing," he said. "But I just want a chance to pitch. If I just get one out in the fifth inning, that's fine by me. It doesn't really matter. I just want to get out there and pitch in front of the home crowd. Whatever it is, I'll be grateful."

Perkins also hopes to pitch to catcher Kurt Suzuki, the Twins' second representative in the Midsummer Classic.

Suzuki, who joined the Twins on a one-year deal worth $2.75 million over the offseason, has had a breakout season offensively and was rewarded with a spot as one of three catchers on the AL squad. He's hitting .309/.365/.396 with two homers, 18 doubles and 37 RBIs in 79 games this season.

But Perkins said that Suzuki's work ethic and defensive skills impress him most.

"He's always having fun and smiling and has so much energy," Perkins said. "It started in Spring Training -- even when he didn't catch me, he'd ask me what I threw and why I threw it. He just wants to learn so much about each guy to make himself better and the pitchers better."

Suzuki, a first-time All-Star, has waited a long time for this opportunity, as he's in his eighth season in the Majors. So it's a special achievement for Suzuki, who is arguably having his best season at age 30.

"I'm really excited," Suzuki said. "It's awesome. It's a dream come true. I never really thought after the last two years that this could happen. So it's kind of surreal. I still think about it and go, 'Wow. I'm an All-Star.' I'm very humbled."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.

Minnesota Twins, Glen Perkins