Glen Perkins, 4½ months removed from shoulder surgery that turned out to be much more extensive than his doctor hoped, is convinced he will be able to throw again during spring training in March. But pitch well enough to retire big-league hitters? That’s another matter.
“I have no idea,” Perkins said Monday during the Twins’ news conference for executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. “The odds aren’t great that you get back to where you were. But there are odds. If I’m in the minority on this one, I’ll be happy with that.”
The three-time All-Star underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder June 23, a procedure that became far more involved when his surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, discovered that the labrum had become completely detached from the shoulder bone. Repairing that added months to his rehabilitation schedule, and severely reduced the chance that he’ll ever be the Twins’ closer again.
“That’s why I waited three months to have surgery. I wanted to try to rehab because you don’t want screws put in your labrum” to hold it in place, Perkins said. “My line to people who have asked is that I’m glad I’m 33 and 10 years into my career and not 23 and just getting started.”
Still, he hasn’t given up, and neither have the Twins. Perkins is about halfway through a nine-month rehab schedule, and said his arm and shoulder are pain-free again. He began throwing lightly three weeks ago, and will complete his ninth session this week before taking a two-week break. “I’ve thrown the ball 75 feet at about 50 percent effort. So I’m still a really long ways away from even throwing off a mound,” Perkins said. “I know I’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot more to be made.”
Twins athletic trainer Dave Preumer is optimistic Perkins will improve rapidly as spring approaches, said Rob Antony, assistant general manager under Falvey and Levine. But the team is a long way from sorting out who will pitch ninth innings next season.
“We have somebody on our roster, Brandon Kintzler, who stepped in and did a nice job” in 2016, Antony said. The righthander saved 17 games in 20 chances, but “I’m not sure we see him as a closer,” Antony said. “I don’t think we’ve penciled in anybody.”
Perkins, who has 120 career saves, pitched only twice in 2016, on the season’s first weekend.
“I just want to pitch and be healthy. When the season starts, it will have been a year since I was healthy, and that’s a long time without playing baseball,” Perkins said. “I miss baseball, I miss competition. I expect to be competitive next year, I do. I don’t expect to be throwing 95 like I was when I was 30 years old, but if I can go out and be competitive and see where it takes me, that’s all I’m worried about right now.”
He’s due $6.5 million in 2017, the final year of a four-year contract, and the Twins can elect to pay him another $6.5 million for 2018 or buy him out for $700,000. Perkins hopes that his playing days aren’t the end of his time with the Twins.
“I see myself being a part of this organization for a lot longer than my contract,” he said. “I know I’m a lot closer to the end than the beginning. The way we’ve struggled, it’s a long road. But you don’t know what will happen. We’ll give it everything we’ve got, and that’s all you can do.”
Eighteen declared free agents
Five former Twins are among 18 minor leaguers in the team’s system who have declared free agency. Pitchers Neil Ramirez, Logan Darnell, Pat Dean and former first-round pick Alex Wimmers are free to negotiate with any team, along with infielder James Beresford. All but Darnell appeared for the Twins last season. Dean made nine starts, including a 7-2 victory over Seattle and starter Felix Hernandez in May.