ANAHEIM, CALIF. – It was a situation, Glen Perkins told coaches before the season, that he was willing to tackle.
With victories at a premium and the chance to get a road trip off to a good start, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire directed pitching coach Rick Anderson to get Perkins warmed up in the eighth inning Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels.
There was one small problem. When Anderson made the call, Perkins was in the restroom.
“I was coming back,” Perkins said. “but [Ryan] Pressly was running down and saying, ‘You gotta get up!’ ”
Gardenhire eventually brought Perkins into the game with two runners on base and two outs in the eighth. Perkins gave up a single for a run and needed Clete Thomas to steal home run from Chris Iannetta, but he got his four-out save, striking out Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick with two on in the ninth to finish the Twins’ 4-3 victory.
A day later, Perkins was asked if he knew how many pitches he threw (answer: 26).
“I have no idea, and I really don’t care,” Perkins said. “At the risk of being short, that’s irrelevant.”
Sure enough, Perkins came back Tuesday night, getting the ball in the ninth inning of a game the Twins led 3-2. It didn’t go well, though. He walked three batters in the ninth inning, including Erick Aybar to drive in the tying run. But the Twins rallied to win 10-3 in 10 innings, with Chris Herrmann’s grand slam highlighting the seven-run outburst. Perkins’ third blown save of 2013 turned into second victory of the season.
Perkins arrived at Angel Stadium on Tuesday with a 1-0 record, 1.66 ERA and 24 saves that had him tied for sixth in the American League. He is coming off his first All-Star Game invitation. His career couldn’t be going any better, not counting being on a team in fourth place in the AL Central.
Once he arrived at the park, he told Anderson he wanted to pitch Tuesday if the game was on the line. “If my turn comes up tonight, I will be out there and you adjust from there,” Perkins said. “We’re trying to win as many games as we can, and I don’t want to sit there and not be a part of a win.”
One reason Gardenhire has been reluctant to use his closer for more than three outs is the risk of not having him available the next night. Gardenhire now appears willing to live for the moment a little more.
Perkins’ first batter Monday was supposed to be the lefthanded-hitting Brad Hawpe, so Gardenhire believed the conditions were right to bring his closer into the game in the eighth inning.
“We were excited there,” Gardenhire said. “ ‘It was the first time we tried that with Perk, bringing him in in the eighth and seeing what happens. We said we were going to do these things. With a lefty coming up and [runners on] first and third, it was the right time.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought Hawpe back and sent up Collin Cowgill. Gardenhire was fine with that because Perkins has held righthanded hitters to a lower batting average (.160) than lefthanded hitters (.257). Perkins gave up an RBI single to Cowgill, then saw the inning end with Thomas’ leaping catch.
Perkins gave up two more hits in the ninth before the back-to-back strikeouts to finish.
“It just depends on the situations,” Gardenhire said of using Perkins in the eighth in the future.
Before he met with Perkins on Tuesday, Gardenhire thought his closer was “gassed” but expected him to want to pitch if needed.
“If you do that too much you won’t have him every night, I know that,” Gardenhire said.
Said Perkins: “I don’t think you worry about tomorrow. You try to win that day and see what happens.”