Looking back at the past two seasons when the Twins nearly lost 100 games each year, reliever Glen Perkins said this year feels different because of new chemistry in the clubhouse, and that has helped the team get off to a much better start.
“There’s a lot of fight here, and I think that having some new guys and new starting pitchers,” said the 30-year-old former Gophers lefthander, who made his Twins debut in 2006. “It doesn’t have that feel of, ‘Here we are again.’ If we lose a game, we lost two tough games here [against the White Sox], and I think that we can come back in tomorrow and it’s a fresh start. It doesn’t have that [negative] vibe. The guys in here have done a good job getting it done so far, and hopefully that will continue.”
Perkins contrasted that feeling with the team’s difficult 2011 and 2012.
“The last two years we’d kind of let things snowball and this year when we’ve struggled — like we had two bad series in Detroit and Cleveland and we came back and played in Boston, where we haven’t historically played well and won three out of four, and especially after losing the first one [in Boston] where we gave that away. I think that it’s a completely different vibe in here so far and it has been fun so far,” Perkins said. “Some of that is the new blood, the new starting pitchers with Vance [Worley] and [Mike Pelfrey] and [Kevin] Correia, they come in and they didn’t experience the last two years here, I think that helped.”
In the Twins’ previous road trip, they lost two out of three to the Tigers and Indians before taking three of four from the Red Sox, who pay a visit to Target Field this weekend. “To come back and fight those last three games [in Boston] and win, I think that shows what we’re capable of,” Perkins said.
Still Perkins knows that there is room for improvement all over the club.
“I think we still haven’t played our best baseball, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think there’s a little bit more consistency on both sides of the ball with our offense and our pitching. There’s more in the tank.
“I thought that when we had Texas here [at the end of April] and that was a series that was going to be a good barometer for us and we split that one. Then going to Boston and winning three out of four, they were hot and they’re going to be there at the end. We battled with them.”
Perkins has converted 24 of 26 saves since being named the closer in the middle of last season, including 8-for-8 this year. Asked to rate his performance, he said: “Good so far. You know, I’ve been out there at times and got it done all right, so I can’t complain.”
Perkins was a starter for the Twins in 2008 and 2009, but he turned into an excellent lefthanded setup reliever before being asked to take over the ninth-inning role. “The last couple of years I’ve been pitching the eighth and it’s still do or die,” he said. “It’s just pitching later in the game and you try not to make any more out of it.
“ I think everyone tries to get later in the game … it’s more fun and all that, I think that is everyone’s goal in the bullpen is to be the closer.”
Big Ten tourney soon
Next weekend, Target Field is playing host to the Big Ten baseball tournament. Twins President Dave St. Peter said the 2015 tournament will be played there as well.
In between those years, the Twins are playing host to their first All-Star Game since the 1985 event at the Metrodome. This week, Earl Santee, the stadium architect for the firm Populous, was in town for his annual review and walkthrough, and he also had discussion with Twins officials about ideas for the All-Star Game.
The Twins also plan to announce a 5,000-seat amphitheater-style concert at the ballpark soon.
• St. Peter said the team is expecting to attract more than 100,000 fans for the three-game series with the Red Sox this weekend. … The Twins will honor Mariano Rivera, the great Yankees closer who is retiring at the end of the season, before their July 2 game here. … Speaking of closers, former Twins great Eddie Guardado will be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame June 14, along with Tom Mee, the team’s longtime head of public relations. … Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings will throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Milwaukee Brewers visit the Twins on May 29. … The Twins and Target Corp. remain in discussions with Hennepin County regarding sponsorship and programming related to the new transit interchange and plaza that is being built next to the ballpark.
• Xcel Energy Center was recently named the No. 1 building in the NHL by StadiumJourney.com, a website that rates sporting venues across the country.
• Sports Illustrated released its “Fortunate 50,” which lists the highest-paid athletes in terms of salary, winnings, bonuses and endorsements. The lone Minnesota professional athlete to make the list was Joe Mauer at No. 20 overall. He made $23 million in salary last year and $2 million in endorsements. Former Twins ace Johan Santana made the list at No. 13 after earning $25.5 million in salary last year with the Mets and $800,000 in endorsements.
• Rashad Vaughn told the website Tar Heel Illustrated that he came close to committing to North Carolina last week, but after talking to his parents the Cooper basketball star decided to wait. But right now it appears that Vaughn, who is ranked as the sixth-best recruit in the country, favors the Tar Heels. An indication of how bad North Carolina coach Roy Williams wants Vaughn is that right after his team was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, Williams was in Vaughn’s home recruiting him.
• Former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez began Thursday leading the National League in batting average at .365. He was 50-for-137 at the plate with six home runs, three triples, 11 doubles, 22 runs scored and 18 RBI for Milwaukee. Gomez had only seven games without a hit in 36 games played, and three of those came in the first five games of the season.
• ESPN baseball writer Keith Law released his top 100 prospects for the Major League Baseball amateur draft and there were a few Minnesota connections. Gophers pitchers Tom Windle and DJ Snelten made the list, Windle at No. 60 overall and Snelten at No. 71. No. 37 prospect Logan Shore is a pitcher at Coon Rapids High School and No. 40 is injured Red Wing outfielder Ryan Boldt.
• Former Gopher Paul Martin is tied for second among NHL defensemen in playoff scoring with two goals and five assists in seven games for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is also second on the Penguins in ice time.
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