Sid Hartman: Perkins doesn't dwell on past with Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 8, 2013 - 11:12 AM

The former Gophers lefthander appeared to be on the way out three years ago, now he is an All-Star closer.

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Glen Perkins has a very affordable contract for the Twins that likely would keep him in a uniform with his hometown team through 2016.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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For the past three seasons, Glen Perkins, who was named to his first All-Star Game on Saturday, has been a dynamic relief pitcher for the Twins, posting a 2.40 ERA over 164⅔ innings with 38 saves and 188 strikeouts to just 44 walks.

But coming into the 2011 season, Perkins’ future was anything but certain with the Twins. From 2008 to 2010, the former Gophers lefthander, working primarily as a starter, had posted a 5.05 ERA over 269 innings while battling injury issues and being demoted to Class AAA Rochester for 24 starts in 2010.

The team and Perkins also had issues over how the Twins dealt with his shoulder injury in 2009 — the team sent him to the minor leagues instead of placing him on the major league disabled list, a move that cost Perkins about $500,000 in salary arbitration due to major league service time. Perkins filed a grievance with the players’ union that was later resolved.

There was even heavy discussion that 2009-10 offseason that Perkins would be traded for San Diego Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

But now three years later, Perkins and the Twins have a rejuvenated relationship. Last year, he signed a three-year, $10.3 million contract that includes a $4.5 million option year for 2016. This year, he is an American League All-Star thanks to a 1.93 ERA in 32⅔ innings along with 20 saves in 22 chances and 45 strikeouts to only seven walks.

Perkins said Sunday that he doesn’t want to dig into the past, but instead concentrate on how he and the team have come to work together.

“We don’t need to go back there,” Perkins said. “That was four years ago now and it has been a pretty good run for the past three years here. This is another step in my career, and something that I can be proud of and that my family can be proud of. That is the most important thing right now, is doing the Twins right. They trusted me and I’m glad that I can return that trust to them.”

Asked what Perkins thought was the biggest factor in turning around his career after struggling through 2009 and 2010 as a starter, the Stillwater High School product replied: “You know what, I think it is just working hard and getting some breaks along the way. They trusted me and they had faith in me and I returned the favor.

“It has all worked out. I couldn’t be happier to be an All-Star and I couldn’t be happier to be an All-Star for the Minnesota Twins.”

In the first year at Target Field in 2010, the Twins lost Joe Nathan to elbow ligament replacement surgery, began the year with Jon Rauch as closer and then traded for Matt Capps, who split closer duties with Nathan in 2011 and then had the job to himself to begin 2012 after Nathan left for Texas.

But when Capps struggled last summer, Perkins made the transition to the closer role. In the final two months of 2012 Perkins had 11 saves in 23 games with a 1.82 ERA, an opponents batting average of .125 and 26 strikeouts in 24⅔ innings.

Asked if he had any difficulty in transitioning from setup man to closer, Perkins said: “No, you know it’s just pitching later in the game. Relievers are relievers, I think, and I’ve been able to transition pretty well and not make too much out of it, not make it a bigger deal than it is. I just stay within myself and focus on getting the three outs.”

Bullpen to blame

While talking about the role of relievers, Perkins also mentioned that the Twins’ inconsistency of late can be blamed on the bullpen.

“Early in the season, our starters had struggled a little bit and our bullpen was holding it down and we were doing a good job there,” he said. “I think our starters have been a lot better and now we’ve been struggling a little bit out in the bullpen. … We’ve scored enough runs to win some games, and our bullpen lately here just hasn’t done as good of a job protecting those leads. It’s the guys down there and we need to be better as a group.”

Perkins said he would like to remain with the Twins going forward, even while there are rumors out there that a contending team would love to have a bullpen arm like his for a pennant run.

“That is out of my control, I guess. All I can really do is go out and play, and when I signed here I had the intention of being here to help this team get back to where we’ve been for a long time,” he said. “Hopefully I’m a part of that, and I believe that’s the case. Other than that, it is out of my control, but I think they’ll do what is right for the team and what is best for me, as well.”

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