A trio of extras from the penultimate regular season Twins game of 2017:
I talked to Glen Perkins before batting practice on Saturday, asking him if he’s given much thought about this weekend perhaps being the end of his career. He said it wasn’t particularly on his mind then. By the time the game ended, things had changed.
Perkins was emotional about getting to face Andrew Romine in the ninth inning, and forcing him to pop up for the final out. Tears filled his eyes as he described a feeling that he said surprised even him. “I didn’t think it was going to be like this,” Perkins said, “but you just never know.”
It wasn’t just the possible finale to a 14-year career in Minnesota’s system that touched him, Perkins said (and he hasn’t ruled out pitching next year, anyway). It was the support he feels from his teammates, especially in a season in which they have achieved so much without him. “They’ve continued to support me and make me feel I’m a part of it,” he said, “even though i haven’t been.”
The 2017 Twins, he said, “is the best team I’ve ever been on as far as how much they care for each other. This is a family in the truest sense. I appreciate it, but I wasn’t surprised.”
Perkins didn’t pitch from April 2016 until he returned last month, a 16-month absence due to a detached labrum in his pitching shoulder. He was excited about his return to the majors, a major triumph considering how much he went through to get back, but making Saturday’s appearance “was harder than when I came back,” he said. “Everything I put in to get here, I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be able to get out there one more time, if that’s it. The support I’ve gotten from the people in this clubhouse has been unbelievable.”
Saturday’s game meant little to either team, but it meant a lot to Aaron Slegers. The tall righthander was handed the start, and he made another positive impression on his manager, despite being tagged with the loss.
“I thought Slegers did a really nice job, considering his layoff,” Paul Molitor said. “We basically gave [the Tigers] five outs in the inning where they scored a run, which is tough to overcome. And yet, he minimized it.”
Slegers can’t minimize the value he believes he has received by pitching in the majors a couple of times this season. He went 15-4 at Rochester, and while he finishes his first season with a 6.46 ERA in the majors, “I can’t even put into words how much I’ve learned. Every time out there has felt more comfortable than the last.”
The success he had this year will change his mentality this winter, and 25-year-old figures to come to training camp next season with a legitimate shot at making the Twins’ rotation.
“Mentally, [it helps to know] that what I’m doing is working,” Slegers said. “In terms of program, [I’ll be] keeping it the same. Doing what I did last year.”
Molitor said he had no problem with the maneuvering required for the Tigers to use Andrew Romine in all nine positions Saturday. That included a delay at one point, when Romine had to go to the dugout to shed his catching gear and return to the field as a second baseman.
“It’s been very rare in the game. I don’t know him particularly well, but I’ve watched him play through the years, and he seems like a really good pro,” Molitor said of Romine, the fifth player ever to play nine positions in a game. “He prided himself in keeping himself around this game by being versatile. And this was a way to showcase that.”
It’s not like Brian Dozier’s teammates were going to let him forget his fumbling fall on the base paths. As Dozier emerged from the dugout Saturday for batting practice, he discovered a chalk outline drawn on the spot between second and third base where he tripped over his feet trying to run out a triple, and had to scramble back to second.
Dozier took the gag in stride, even posing for photos next to the “crime scene,” as hit teammates described it. And he had a good explanation for his fall.
“I was going to break Buck’s StatCast [speed] record,” Dozier said, referring to Byron Buxton’s time running to third base. “He’s lucky I tripped. Lucky.”
Molitor said he will miss working with head trainer Dave Pruemer, who is retiring after this season in order to move his family back to his and his wife’s hometown in southern Illinois.
“I’m glad he’s getting a little bit of attention. Working with him closely the last three years, I see what he does and how the players respond to him. He doesn’t sugarcoat things,” Molitor said. “In some ways, he’s like a coach. He’s not afraid to challenge these guys and motivate guys as they go through rehab and injuries. To make a decision that’s family-based is very commendable. We’re going to miss having him around.”