In late 2009, Glen Perkins filed a grievance against the Twins in a dispute over his big-league service time after being sent to the minors. That decision and Perkins' subsequent comments lamenting the business side of baseball left many to wonder whether the Stillwater and Gophers product was operating on borrowed time with his hometown team.
If he indeed had one foot out the door during that period, Perkins now finds himself firmly on solid ground within the organization and -- as strange as it might sound -- thankful for the rough seas he navigated to reach this point.
Finally cemented in the bullpen after stints as a starter, Perkins has been one of the few bright spots among Twins relievers this season. He's been so dominant, in fact, that it's fair to wonder whether Perkins should and will be in the mix for the closer's role next season.
Amazing how much has changed, both on the field and with Perkins' perspective, in such a short period of time.
"They did what was best for the team and then probably ultimately what was best for me," Perkins said Friday. "Hindsight is 20/20. What they did and what ended up happening with me, the things that happened ended up helping me because it got me to where I am now. If that stuff didn't happen, I wouldn't be here right now.
"I'm thankful for them sticking with me through that stuff. I never wanted to go anywhere. I grew up here and always wanted to play for the Twins. That hasn't changed, and it won't change."
Both sides are grateful the way things worked out. Perkins has emerged the team's top setup man and has dominated opponents thanks in large part to increased velocity on his fastball that now resides in the mid-90s.
Perkins is 3-1 with a 1.45 ERA. Opponents are hitting only .199 against him, and he has 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings. He has walked only 12 batters, has not given up a home run and has been equally successful against both righthanded and lefthanded batters.
He had a hiccup Friday. Entering in the eighth with the bases loaded and two outs, Perkins allowed a run to score on a wild pitch in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox. But he retired all four batters he faced.
He attributes his career revival to being healthy again after battling shoulder problems in recent years.
"Everyone has been like, 'Wow, where did this come from?' " closer Joe Nathan said of Perkins. "This is what he was before he got hurt. This is why he was a top pick by this organization. It's just nice to see him back healthy. It was a long road back for him."
The question now becomes, where will that road lead? Nathan has reclaimed the closer's role and appears to have regained his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery. But the Twins must decide whether to pick up a $12.5 million option on his contract for 2012 or pay a $2 million buyout. That's a big pricetag for Nathan, who turns 37 in November.
It's hard to imagine Matt Capps, who blew seven save opportunities before being removed from the closer's role, will be in the conversation.
Perkins said he is too locked into the moment to entertain those thoughts.
"I'm just going to pitch," he said. "My mentality all year is when they call down and say, 'Warm up,' I go and warm up. I don't care if it's the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, whatever. For me, I'm just excited that I'm healthy and pitching well because it's been a long time since I've really pitched to what I thought was my ability. It's not about what role it is or anything like that."
Well, at least his role is more defined than a few years ago when he shuttled between starter and bullpen. That set role, manager Ron Gardenhire said, has enabled Perkins to find his comfort zone.
"I think he's finally just grasped it and said, 'This is what I am, this is what I can do really well,' " Gardenhire said. "He gets the ball and he goes out and wings it and lets it fly as hard as he can. I think he's kind of grabbed onto this role and enjoyed it and is very happy to be where he's at."
Perkins is able to attack hitters knowing his outings are a sprint, not a marathon, unlike 2008 when he pitched 151 innings as a starter. As a result, the velocity on his fastball has jumped a notch.
"My arm for whatever reason doesn't wear down like it did when I started," he said. "I would just wear down when I was a starter. There were times where I would try and throw it as hard as I could and it wouldn't come out. It would be 91, 92. Now, I'll let one go and it's 96, maybe 97. I think I've just adapted well to pitching out of the bullpen and didn't really do the same with the rotation thing."
Chip Scoggins • email@example.com