FORT MYERS, FLA. - Rafael Perez earned a shot with the Twins mostly by dominating his new teammates.
The lefthanded reliever, whose seven-year career has been spent entirely as a set-up man and lefty specialist in Cleveland's bullpen, signed a minor league contract with the Twins on Thursday, but he will be given a full shot at sticking with the team, manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"He's filthy. [He's] got great stuff," Gardenhire said after the 30-year-old Dominican agreed to report to camp on Saturday. "We've seen him come in and be able to just eat lefties up. ... We're definitely excited to have him."
The Twins are probably equally excited not to face him anymore. Perez has appeared in 41 games against the Twins, and his 1.89 ERA is his best against any American League team. He has also never given up a home run to a Twins player in 38 career innings. Justin Morneau is 4-for-19 against him, and Joe Mauer is 3-for-12.
Perez was available, though, because a shoulder injury cost him nearly all of the 2012 season -- he threw only seven innings -- and required surgery in September. Cleveland declined to offer him a contract after paying him $2 million last season, and Perez couldn't find a guaranteed roster spot in free agency.
"When that didn't happen, [Perez and his agent] were receptive to coming in on a non-roster deal," assistant general manager Rob Anthony said. "They liked our situation. [Perez] liked the possibility of, at some point, stretching out and maybe even being able to start for us."
Perez was a starter in the minor leagues for Cleveland, and "we're not going to turn a blind eye to anything," Anthony said. But he is more likely to compete for a setup role with the Twins. With Glen Perkins assuming the closer's role, Brian Duensing, Tyler Robertson and Caleb Thielbar are the other lefthanded options.
Anthony said Perez's surgeon and Cleveland's trainers vouched for Perez's recovery, and he impressed a Twins scout who watched him pitch in New York earlier this week. He pitched at least 60 innings in four of the past six seasons, and had an ERA of 3.54 or lower in all four.