Glen Perkins, who recorded his 18th save in 18 opportunities in the Twins’ 6-4 victory over the Red Sox on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep, is the best closer in baseball this season and it isn’t even close. The Stillwater native, former Gophers ace and Twins first-round draft pick leads the majors in saves; no one else has more than 15.
He reached 18 saves faster than any Twins pitcher in history, doing so in only 46 games — even faster than Jeff Reardon, who many fans rate as the best closer in Twins history. Perkins has seven saves in the past 11 games. If the Twins give Perkins the lead in the ninth inning, they win.
His 1.19 ERA is the best of his career, and he has allowed only three earned runs on 19 hits and two walks over 22⅔ innings while striking out 21.
Perkins said that when Paul Molitor was named manager, they had a discussion and came to one simple agreement: Whatever Molitor needed from Perkins to win games, the closer was willing to do.
“I’m sick of not winning,” Perkins recalled telling Molitor. “So if you want me out there for more than three outs or you want me out there in the eighth [inning] or whatever, bring me in. So he has held up his end of the bargain, and so far I have, too.”
It’s amazing to think that not too long ago, the Twins and Perkins were at a crossroads with some bitter feelings between the two parties over how the team dealt with the lefthander’s shoulder injury in 2009 and a demotion to the minors in 2010. But in 2011, the Twins concluded Perkins could become one of the best setup men in the game for then-closer Joe Nathan and they moved him to the bullpen.
Since then, Perkins has a 2.62 ERA over 279 innings. He became the Twins’ full-time closer in 2013 and has 88 saves in the past two-plus seasons. And in 2014, he quietly signed an extension that guaranteed him $22.175 million, well below market value, and will keep him with the Twins through 2017.
Arm feels great
Perkins already has recorded two four-out saves this season after doing that only once all of last season. Is he concerned about how much he is pitching?
“Well, we have been winning, so I have to be out there,” he said. “You know what? I’m not going to complain when I pitch, because it means we’re winning and we have a chance to win a game. So I’m all for it.”
Perkins did add that he was looking forward to Thursday’s off-day after a pretty intense stretch of closing games.
“[Thursday] is an off-day, so that’s good timing,” he said. “I have been good this year. I have felt good. Ever since I took the last two weeks of the season off last year, I have felt good. So no worries, and I’m glad that I get a lot of opportunities to pitch.”
While fans and writers alike try to figure out if this Twins team can keep winning, Perkins said the simple fact that the team is winning in so many different ways is a great sign.
“We have played really well, and we have found different ways to win every game,” he said. “[Wednesday] was home runs [by Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario], we haven’t done much of that, and it was home runs from the bottom of the order. We had a game last night where we pitched well and gave up one run. So you know we like where we’re at and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Perkins, who is 32 and has seven years of service time in the majors, says he sees no end in sight to his career as the Twins closer.
“I have a few more years left,” he said. “I feel good. I’m not worried about that right now, we’re having fun. We haven’t won and it’s fun to win. I’m focused on that right now.”
Soil could be problem
Some contractors who are familiar with the soil where the Gophers will build some athletics facilities near the current track believe addressing environmental concerns will add to construction costs, and Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague doesn’t deny that.
“So far they’ve done some soil work out there, they’ve gone out there and drilled down, and I think so far, so good,” he said. “When we built [the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex], back 15 years ago or 20 years ago, there was some soil issues, but we put a pretty good budget line item in the facilities project to remediate the soil. I think so far, so good. We’re just crossing our fingers and hoping it comes out OK, but we put a lot of money in there to remediate any soil issues. They have dug a little bit, but you really know what the problems are once you really dig. We’ll be OK. The preliminary [findings are] decent, so I think we’ll be OK.”
• Bobby Knight believes Richard Pitino and the Gophers basketball team will have to schedule a more difficult preseason schedule if they desire to finish higher in the Big Ten. The Gophers coach agrees. “We’re trying to complete our schedule, we played Wake Forest in that Big Ten/ACC Challenge last year,” Pitino said.
“We’ll find out, hopefully soon, who we’ll play this year. Then you know we’re still trying to potentially figure out a home-and-home to start with a high-major team. We have some options but we’re working on dates. You have to figure out dates for both parties.
‘‘But you know that’s something that I want to challenge our guys in December before we get rolling in the Big Ten schedule. I think that was a big mistake on my part. Our first three weeks were difficult in the schedule last year, but December didn’t test us enough. That’s something we’re going to try and change.”
• Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman says he actually found their second-round draft pick, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks, when he was scouting Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr, their 2014 first-round draft pick.
“Everywhere I looked, number six caught my attention on the UCLA team a year ago,” Spielman said. “Kendricks was number six.”
• The contract of Timberwolves assistant coach David Adelman, son of former Wolves coach Rick Adelman, will expire when the NBA draft is over. “He has the ability to go somewhere else, if he wants, but we’d like to bring him back,’’ said Wolves President Flip Saunders. “But we haven’t had those discussions yet with his representatives.” … Look for Saunders to keep 80-year-old Ed Prohofsky on his staff. Prohofsky coached with Saunders at Golden Valley Lutheran College back in the early ’80s and has worked with the Wolves and Lynx.
• Carl Willis, the former Twins reliever, now is pitching coach for the Red Sox.
• It has to be interesting for the Rockets’ Kevin McHale to coach against the Warriors and Klay Thompson in the NBA Western Conference finals, since McHale and Mychal Thompson, Klay’s father, were Gophers teammates in the ’70s.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com