Glen Perkins was in his third professional season when he debuted with the 2006 Twins. He was on the postseason roster and made one appearance for what had been a streaking Twins team that was swept in a three-game upset by the Oakland A’s.
Two years later, Perkins spent the first month at Class AAA Rochester, moved into the Twins rotation, and went 12-4 in 26 starts. That team lost a Game 163 to the White Sox, 1-0 in Chicago.
Perkins opened the 2009 season with three excellent starts, he became less effective, had an injury to deal with and wound up rehabbing in Fort Myers. His numbers in the big leagues that year were terrible – 6-7 with a 5.98 ERA and 120 hits allowed in 96 1/3 innings.
He spent most of the 2010 season in Rochester and was terrible again – a 5.61 ERA, mostly as a starter. Still, he was on the 40-player roster, the Twins were scrounging for lefties, and he made 13 appearances (and one start) in the late summer in the big leagues.
It appeared that he was at the end of the line with his home-state team. Then, he had a sitdown with manager Ron Gardenhire near the end of 2011 spring training, made the roster as a reliever, and outpitched Jose Mijares to become the No. 1 bullpen lefty.
Perkins was 29 when he started to get regular chances to save games for the Twins in the middle of the 2012 season. He was the closer from 2013 to 2015, with 102 saves and three All-Star selections.
The 2013 game was held at Citi Field in New York. Perkins was held in reserve by manager Jim Leyland, in case the game went to extra innings. It did not, with the Americans winning 3-0.
Perkins was an All-Star rookie and was excited to be part of the extravaganza, whether or not he pitched.
The 2014 game was held at Target Field. Perkins entered in the top of the ninth with the Americans holding a 5-3 lead. His catcher was Kurt Suzuki, a Twins teammate.
Perkins retired Miguel Montero on a fly ball, struck out Josh Harrison and retired Charlie Blackmon on a fly ball. It was a 1-2-3 save in front of a pumped-up home crowd.
“I said at the time that, individually, I don’t know how you can have a better moment,’’ Perkins said. “I appreciated that this was almost impossible – to be pitching for the Twins, my team as a kid, and getting a chance to finish an All-Star Game on a great night in a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis, after where I’d been three years earlier.’’
That home All-Star Game was the highlight of a fourth straight lost season for the Twins. There was a revival with new manager Paul Molitor in 2015, and for 3 ½ months, no one was more important to that than Perkins.
He was an All-Star again, unquestionably. He had 28 saves in as many attempts leading to the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. He had pitched in 37 games and allowed five runs, for an ERA of 1.24 and a batting average against of .193.
Again, Perkins was the pitcher on the mound at the end of an American League victory, 6-3. There was no save this time, as he entered with a 6-2 lead and gave up a run on a triple by Ryan Braun and a sacrifice fly Brandon Crawford.
And then it was gone – first the save perfection, then the effectiveness, and finally the health of his left shoulder.
Kevin Jepsen was the closer down the stretch of that failed attempt to attain a wild-card spot in the playoffs. Perkins was out for a time in September -- and there were grumbles that this was a routine for him, to find an ailment when things stopped going well on the mound.
Terrific theory, but this time for sure, an ailment had found him.
He wasn’t reaching 90 miles per hour with his fastball in spring training of 2016. Again, there were grumbles, that Perkins was unwilling to turn it loose.
Torn labrums have a tendency to prevent turning it loose. Perkins pitched in two games early in April, and that was it. He went to the disabled list and spent six weeks trying to rehab the sore left shoulder.
“If you undergo labrum surgery, it takes six to eight months at a minimum to get back on the mound,’’ Perkins said. “If I had been 25, I would have undergone surgery right away. I was 33. I tried to rehab for a few weeks.’’
The surgery on Perkins’ labrum took place in late May of 2016. He hasn’t pitched since. The schedule’s a wastin’ and he’s not really close, but he’s going back to Fort Myers on Wednesday, to see if it’s feasible to get back on a big-league mound late in this season – late in what will be the last year of his contract with the Twins.
“As I mentioned, some pitchers come back in six to eight months from labrum surgery, some take a year or more, and some never are able to throw at a competitive level,’’ Perkins said. “I’m 34 and never going to throw like I did, but if I can find some consistency, I feel like I still could get some people out this season.’’
Perkins threw live batting practice and in simulated games five times at Target Field in late May, before leaving in early June for Fort Myers. He was there for five weeks, saw progress, then a setback that required a cortisone shot in his bicep, and another erratic throwing session late last week.
“I threw 35 pitches, and 15 of them were really good … decent velocity, felt great coming out of the hand,’’ Perkins said. “And then other pitches felt terrible and were flying all over the place.’’
Perkins came home over the weekend to see his family, wife Alisha and his daughters, Lyla, 10, the hockey player, and Addie, 8, the aspiring distance runner. On Monday, there was a mountain bike ride. On Tuesday, a little more quality time with the girls.
How about the All-Star Game?
“I was thinking about what a great time that is for the players … for Miguel [Sano], for Ervin [Santana], and especially for a guy like Brandon Kintzler who has been through so much to get here,’’ Perkins said. “But the game itself, I’ll probably follow it on Twitter, and check the highlights if our guys have a good night.’’
On Wednesday, as the All-Star festivities close down in Miami, Perkins will be heading back to Florida, to Fort Myers, for what would appear to be his last shot at rescuing even a smidgen of the 2017 season.
“Hey, I’ve seen the No. 1 draft choice, Royce Lewis, a couple of times down there,’’ Perkins said. “I really like the way he carries himself on the field. Good kid.’’
There's the cycle of baseball -- a veteran struggling for more time in the big leagues, a young player with star potential just getting started.