Perkins becomes dependable closer

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 9, 2012 - 10:37 PM
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Pitcher Glen Perkins celebrated a Twins victory over Cleveland with catcher Joe Mauer.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune file

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It seemed inevitable Glen Perkins would eventually become the Twins' full-time closer and, without saying much, that's exactly what the team has done.

When Matt Capps went down because of a shoulder injury in June, manager Ron Gardenhire said he'd use the lefthanded Perkins and righthanded Jared Burton in save situations, depending on matchups.

Those two shared the role for a while, but Perkins has recorded all five of the Twins' saves since Aug. 4.

Burton has been solid as a set-up man, although he gave up the tying run in the eighth inning Sunday against Cleveland, setting the stage for Justin Morneau's walk-off home run.

Perkins has a 1.77 ERA in his past 34 appearances, and has converted 11 of 12 save opportunities, including all seven since the All-Star break.

"I've said we'll use Burton on days when Perkins can't go the rest of this year, but I've got no problem with Perk being the closer," Gardenhire said. "I like handing him the ball and seeing him go out and wing it -- lefties or righties, it doesn't matter."

Perkins has a strong chance of keeping the closer's job, but the Twins don't want to make any public assurances, at least until they officially decline Capps' $6 million option for next season.

They knew Perkins had the pitches and mentality to be a closer, but they wanted to make sure he could handle pitching at least three days in a row. Perkins has done this twice this season.

"It just depends on how much stress he puts on his arm the first two days," Gardenhire said. "There are easy saves and hard saves. If he has one of those 24- or 25-pitch innings, it makes a difference."

Vasquez struggles again

In his second start for the Twins, Esmerling Vasquez issued five walks and allowed four runs in three innings, leaving his ERA at 9.35.

"It just wasn't very fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "Kind of danced around the strike zone. You've got to do better than that."

Gibson watch

The Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery after 159 1/3 innings, and the Twins plan to take a cautious approach with top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson next year, too.

Gibson, 24, had the Tommy John procedure on Sept. 7, 2011.

"Let's get him through this year first," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "Let's see what he does in the Arizona Fall League. That's more important right now."

The key number to watch is Gibson's innings pitched. The more he pitches this year, the more the Twins will feel comfortable extending him beyond that total for next year. Ryan said there is no formula; they'll just use common sense.

Gibson pitched 28 1/3 innings in the minors this season. Beginning Sept. 17, he can add to that total in the Twins' fall instructional league, and then he can expect to pitch about 25 more innings in the Arizona Fall League, which runs through mid-November.

"He's a good kid, he's a good worker, he's a good talent," Ryan said. "Something good's going to start happening for this kid now."

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