FORT MYERS, FLA. - Ask Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if the team plans to start the season with Glen Perkins in the bullpen and he'll dismiss it out of hand.
But that doesn't mean Gardenhire can't dream.
Perkins continued to tantalize Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson on Thursday, throwing two perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts in a 4-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
"Perkins was yowser. Yowser." Gardenhire said. "He threw the ball really good. It came out of his hand with good snap, the ball diving down, good breaking ball."
Perkins has made four appearances this spring, including three in relief, and posted a 2.00 ERA, with eight strikeouts and one walk in nine innings.
Ostensibly, Perkins is still in competition for a starting spot, along with Sidney Ponson, Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey.
But, to put it simply, Perkins is already the second-best lefthanded reliever in the organization, behind Dennys Reyes but well ahead of Mike Venafro and Randy Choate.
The Twins want Perkins to gain experience as a starter at Class AAA Rochester, but even Perkins said, "I would love to break with the team as a starter or as a reliever. I've always been a starter, but that doesn't mean that's all I am."
When asked if outings like Thursday's make him consider using Perkins as a reliever, Gardenhire said, "Did you have a microphone in the dugout? That's exactly what [Anderson] said. If we ever got to the point with Reyes where we were just beating the heck out of him, and Perkins wasn't with us at the time, he would be a guy you could really count on to come in and do that for a while."