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Dozier invited to HR derby

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Looks like Brian Dozier won’t be going home to Mississippi on Sunday night after all.

According to a source, the Twins’ slugging second baseman was set to be among four players named Tuesday to represent the American League in the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby on Monday at Target Field.

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Dozier is expected to join American League captain Jose Bautista of Toronto and three others to be named on ESPN later Tuesday.

Dozier, at 5 feet 11 and 190 pounds, would be the sixth different Twins player to participate in the Home Run Derby, joining Joe Mauer (2009), Justin Morneau (2007-08), Torii Hunter (2002), Gary Gaetti (1989) and Tom Brunansky (1985).

Morneau won the 2008 contest at old Yankee Stadium, outlasting Josh Hamilton. Brunansky, now the Twins’ hitting coach, tied for second in 1985 at the Metrodome, the last time the Twin Cities hosted an All-Star Game and the inaugural year of the Home Run Derby in conjunction with the Midsummer Classic.

Though he was disappointed at not making the AL all-star team when it was announced Sunday, Dozier said he was looking forward to visiting with his niece and nephew back in Fulton, Miss., during the all-star break. Asked about the derby, Dozier suggested he might be willing to change his plans if invited to compete against the game’s most prolific sluggers.

“Guess you can’t really turn that down,” he said. “It would be a good opportunity.”

Dozier, 27, is tied for 12th in the American League with 16 home runs, two shy of the career record he set last year. Nine of his home runs have come at Target Field, typically down the left-field line.

Bautista has 17 homers. But Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout (20 homers) and 2011 derby champion Robinson Cano of Seattle already have said they won’t participate.

Of the 11 AL players with more home runs than Dozier, two (David Ortiz and Albert Pujols) failed to make the all-star team and another (Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion) is expected to pull out with an injury.

Since June 16 of last season, Dozier’s 31 homers rank 15th in the majors. That production in a span of 703 at-bats (179 games) puts him just ahead of noted sluggers such as Victor Martinez (30), Bautista (30), Hanley Ramirez (30) and right behind the likes of Trout (35) and David Ortiz (35).

Baltimore’s Chris Davis leads the majors with 45 homers in that span.

In addition to Dozier, the Twins are sending closer Glen Perkins and catcher Kurt Suzuki to the All-Star Game itself. The three combined participants would tie for the largest Twins all-star presence since they sent four players to Toronto in 1991.

They last had three combined participants in 2009, when Mauer, Morneau and closer Joe Nathan were chosen as all-stars.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will serve as a coach for AL manager John Farrell. Twins trainer Dave Pruemer and strength-and-conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano also will participate.

Twins unaware of SP Nolasco’s elbow problems

SEATTLE — Eighteen starts into his Twins career, veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco finally admitted he has been struggling with soreness in his throwing elbow since spring training.

Nolasco, signed to a four-year, $49 million free-agent deal during the offseason, left the team Monday and flew back to the Twin Cities. The Opening Day starter was due to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam Tuesday, when he will be examined by Twins medical director Dr. John Steubs.

 “After some coaxing, he finally admitted he’s been struggling since spring training with a bit of a sore elbow,” Twins assistant GM Rob Antony said. “He said he can’t get loose more than anything, said it gets tight. Some days it’s better than others. (Sunday) he had a real difficult time getting loose, so we called it a day after two innings.”

Nolasco, 31, was pulled after two innings and 42 pitches Sunday after giving up six earned runs to the New York Yankees. That start pushed Nolasco’s earned-run average to a career-worst 5.90, but Gardenhire said afterward he had no reason to suspect an injury was bothering Nolasco.

That changed Monday, when Nolasco likened what he was feeling in his elbow to a similar problem in 2007, his second year in the majors. Nolasco threw just 55 innings that year, 21 of them in the majors with the Florida Marlins.

Both Antony and Gardenhire referred to a decline in Nolasco’s velocity. Fastball command had been an issue for the veteran pitcher, who had a four-year offer from just one other suitor this winter, the Seattle Mariners.

Nolasco’s fastball range was 90-94 mph last season,” Antony said, but this year he has dropped to 87-89 mph at times.

“He hasn’t been as effective with his pitches,” Antony said. “He hasn’t had the same command as he’s had. Basically everything he’s done this year is nothing like the reports we had. He’s not pitching the same way he did last year.”

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