Souhan: Perkins remains rooted as a Twin and as a Minnesotan

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 27, 2012 - 12:12 PM

The Twins' best relief pitcher in 2011 rode out some tough times as a pro, sticking to what he knows best.

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Glen Perkins, middle, took the stage with fellow pitcher Brian Duensing and manager Ron Gardenhire during the Twins caravan stop last week in Sauk Centre, Minn. Of Gardenhire, Perkins said: “I have nothing but respect for him.”

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Thursday, Glen Perkins woke up in his house in Lakeville, drove to the University of Minnesota to throw with his old coach, stopped by one of his old college hangouts wearing his Lakeville South hockey T-shirt, headed home to check on his wife and kids, then headed to Target Field to accept the Twins' Diamond Awards as the team's pitcher of the year and most improved player.

More than two years after filing a grievance against the team, Perkins has become the Twins' best reliever. He might also be the only Twin to ever escape the Hotel California of doghouses, the one constructed out of glares and barbed wire by manager Ron Gardenhire.

As Joe Mauer winters in Fort Myers and tries to rehabilitate the bilateral weakness in his reputation, it is Perkins, strangely, who has become what the average Minnesota might consider an ideal athlete: a local guy who lives here year-round, pays state taxes, owns a windshield scraper and excels on the field.

As he ate a cold sandwich Thursday after his workout, Perkins, who grew up in Stillwater and attended the U, sounded surprised by his new status.

"I've been on this team almost as long as anyone else here now," he said. "When I got here, I looked up to Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. Now I want to be there for younger guys.

"You develop a niche in the clubhouse. This will be a big year for me, in that respect."

Perkins filed a grievance against the Twins in 2009. Thursday, at Sally's on the U of M campus, Perkins spoke expansively of that decision.

"I like to think that I can get along with everybody, and I think in hindsight, that's part of why I'm still here," he said. "No matter what we went through, I made an effort to end it as soon as I can.

"I had a strong feeling of right and wrong in that case, and I fought it as long as I thought I should, and I remember calling my agent and saying, 'We're done.' I didn't want to just roll over, but I felt that was as far as it needed to go."

That winter, Perkins ran into then-General Manager Bill Smith and Gardenhire at TwinsFest.

"I hadn't talked to them since the grievance, and I said, 'That's in the past,'" Perkins said. "You've got to move on. I would have done the same thing to me that they did, frankly. All I ever wanted to do was play and be healthy."

Perkins was rehabilitating his stiff arm in Florida in August of 2009 when the Twins activated him from the disabled list and sent him to Class AAA Rochester. Whatever the Twins' intentions, the move served as punishment for Perkins, keeping him from qualifying for arbitration.

"A lot of what happened stemmed from frustration, from me struggling," Perkins said. "I had never really struggled. And then, not being healthy. I wasn't hurt, but I wasn't healthy, and there's nothing worse than that gray area. I didn't walk off the field in pain. I just couldn't keep my arm loose. It's hard to convey to fans, and the media, and the team, what that feels like, especially when you've never been through it before."

Perkins backed off lifting weights and began swimming and playing racquetball. Over the past two years, his velocity has increased from around 90 mph to 97 and he climbed the bullpen depth chart.

"I was able to perform well, and that cures a lot of things," he said. "But I would like to think that even at the beginning of last season my relationship with Ron was the same as it was at the end.

"I have nothing but respect for him, and a lot of that stems from the interactions we've had, both positive and negative."

This winter, Perkins signed a one-year contract worth $1.55 million. He celebrated by building a house in Lakeville and putting in the floors by hand.

"I'm really a blue-collar guy," he said. "I would hope that people would find me approachable."

Even Gardenhire does these days.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is Souhanstrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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