Morneau, Mauer voted AL All-Star starters

Morneau, Mauer voted AL All-Star starters

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time since 1968, the Twins will have two players in the starting lineup for the American League at the All-Star Game.

Justin Morneau will make his first ever start at first base for the AL at this year's All-Star Game on July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Teammate Joe Mauer will be behind the plate in the contest for the third straight year after the fans made him the leading vote-getter among all Major League Baseball players.

It's the first time Twins teammates have started the All-Star Game together since Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew shared the honor during the '68 season.

"If you get voted in, it means that everybody is recognizing what you're doing," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mauer and Morneau. "We all know them here, but now they are starting to get national recognition, which is a nice thing because they are two very good baseball players. "

The Twins M&M duo could also be joined at the Midsummer Classic by teammate Delmon Young, who was selected as one of five candidates for the AL Final Vote.

This year's All-Stars were announced Sunday afternoon as part of the MLB All-Star Selection Show. The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT.  ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage.  MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.

Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.

Morneau secured 2,933,355 votes in what was the tightest position race in the AL, holding off other veteran All-Stars, including Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers (2,586,207) and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees (2,459,015), for the top spot at first base.

"You kind of look at it, but you never know," Morneau said of following the All-Star ballot updates which had him first in recent weeks. "It's one of those things where we've been close in the past and obviously either way you're happy to go, but to get voted in by the fans is special."

It will be Morneau's fourth straight trip to the Midsummer Classic and his first ever start. The previous three times he was elected via the players ballot.

"I'm so happy for him," Mauer said. "He definitely deserves to start and I know he's really proud of that and he should be."

Mauer will be making his fourth trip to the Midsummer Classic in six full Major League seasons and this year he does so as the leading vote-getter in Major League Baseball with 5,372,606 votes. It's the third highest vote total of all-time, trailing only the 6,079,688 cast for Ken Griffey Jr. in '94 and the 5,397,374 Albert Pujols received for last year's Midsummer Classic in St. Louis

The catcher was a runaway winner at the position, as the second-place finisher, Jorge Posada of the Yankees, received 1,749,880 votes. This will be Mauer's third start behind the plate. He was selected on the players ballot in 2006 -- the season in which he won his first batting title.

And who can blame Morneau that he has already started to envision what it might be like to hit back-to-back with Mauer in that stellar All-Star lineup?

"You never know what the lineup's going to be," Morneau said. "But it'd be pretty sweet if it was 3-4 [where we batted]. You never know, there's so many great players that you're just happy to be there."

Morneau has been putting up MVP-like numbers once again this season. He entered Sunday ranking second in the AL in batting average (.342), first in on-base percentage (.436) and second in slugging percentage (.613). He was tied for seventh in home runs with 17 and tied for eighth in RBIs with 54 on the season, but went 2-for-4 and added an RBI in Sunday's loss to the Rays.

For Mauer, it's been a bit of a slower start to this season, albeit still a good one. The three-time AL batting champion and reigning AL MVP is batting .303 with three home runs and 34 RBIs. For most players, that would be considered an excellent season, but it's been a bit of a dropoff for the catcher coming off what was a phenomenal '09 season in which he became the first player since George Brett in 1980 to lead the league in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587). Mauer also hit a career-high 28 homers and 96 RBIs last season.

As for Young, he has been experiencing a breakout season with the Twins. He's tied for the team lead in RBIs (55) and fourth in home runs (9). He's batting .298 with 22 doubles and has already nearly matched his RBI and home run total from a year ago.

"He's hit seventh or eighth most of the year when he could definitely be hitting third, fourth or fifth," Morneau said. "Maybe in the future we'll get to that point, but right now I think it makes our lineup a lot tougher to pitch to. It shows how he's able to rise to the occasion in those big moments and hopefully it pays off for him."

Competing with Young for the Final Vote to become the 34th man on the American League squad will be White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, and Rangers third baseman Michael Young.

Having two starters and the possibility of a third Twins player joining the group at this year's All-Star Game is just another sign to Morneau that people are starting to recognize the Twins on a national scale.

"I think it has to do a lot with our team's success and making the playoffs so much in the last eight or nine years," Morneau said. "You can't forget about a guy like Joe Nathan who's been an All-Star in the past and you look at some guys here who deserve to go like [Carl] Pavano,[Francisco] Liriano, [Jon] Rauch, hopefully Delmon ends up winning the vote and gets to go with us. I think it shows a lot to the team's success and how far we've come in that respect."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.