FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins have played 56 seasons in Minnesota and they have had a dozen players selected for three or more All-Star Games. The most recent was Glen Perkins, who went with Joe Mauer in 2013, with Kurt Suzuki in 2014 and with Brian Dozier in 2015.
Perkins was awe-struck to be among the American Leaguers at New York’s Citi Field in 2013 and had no complaint when manager Jim Leyland kept him in the bullpen all night.
He had a thrill of a player’s lifetime in 2014 at Target Field, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth with Suzuki behind the plate to save the AL’s 5-3 victory.
Perkins pitched the ninth again in Cincinnati in 2015, giving up a run in the AL’s 6-3 victory. Two consecutive All-Star wins in which he was on the mound for the last out; not bad, although the second one came with a touch of concern.
“My shoulder didn’t feel right warming up that night; not pain, just trouble getting loose,’’ Perkins said this week. “I haven’t felt like I’ve had my best stuff since that night.’’
Perkins had pitched in 38 games for the Twins at that point in 2015 and was perfect in 28 save opportunities. “I wasn’t 95 or 96 [miles per hour] anymore, but I was 93 with a good slider,’’ he said. “I was probably throwing the ball better than at any time in my career.’’
The Twins were 49-40 entering the All-Star break, and Perkins had a 1.21 ERA to go with the 28 saves. It was the best-yet in a run of excellence starting in 2011, when Perkins was the last pitcher to get a place in the bullpen out of spring training.
Starting with an easy-to-forget scoreless inning in a 13-3 loss in Toronto on April 1, 2011, to the All-Star break in 2015, Perkins had pitched in 297 games and 293.2 innings, with 322 strikeouts and a 2.54 ERA.
Starting on June 20, 2012, when Perkins began to get regular opportunities, to the All-Star break in 2015, he was 114 out of 123 in converting save chances.
And then came the disastrous finish to the final 45 percent of the 2015 schedule: Perkins had a 7.32 ERA in 22 appearances. He didn’t pitch for 18 days in September because of various ailments.
Perkins was 28 when he had his rebirth as a reliever in 2011. He was a Minnesotan, a former Gophers athlete and now a booster, and was the go-to guy for the Twins’ media and promotion departments when they needed an appearance on short notice. There was also highly visible charity work with his wife, Alisha.
And then Perkins went in the tank after the All-Star break in 2015. The Perkins critics in and out of the Twins organization arose from their slumber (going 28-for-28 had been hard to complain about) and offered this:
“When things start going bad, Perkins always shuts it down.’’
That’s an interesting theory, since Perkins had not been on the disabled list in the big leagues. He would have been there in 2015, but it was September when he didn’t pitch for 2½ weeks and rosters were expanded.
The anti-Perkins rhetoric was alive and well last spring, as his fastball was stuck in the mid-80s. “He won’t turn it loose,’’ was the howl.
There was a good reason. He had a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He pitched in only two games in April, tried rehab, and then in June, it was decided he would undergo surgery.
Why the wait?
“If you have surgery right away, you’re out for the year,’’ Perkins said. “If you try to rehab it, still can’t pitch and then have surgery, you’re still out for the year. We tried rehab.’’
Another theory on Perkins was that he was “out of shape’’ in 2015, and that contributed to his post-All-Star futility.
“I weighed maybe 10 pounds less — 199 at the start of last season,’’ he said. “Guess what? I couldn’t hit 90 with my fastball because I had a torn labrum.’’
Perkins has been in Florida since Jan. 2, working out in the morning, fishing on the Gulf as often as possible in the afternoon. The rehab schedule that he’s been following will have him pitching off the mound a week into February, and available to pitch in exhibitions by mid-March.
This is the last guaranteed season of the contract extension he signed with the Twins that started in 2014. He will be paid $6.5 million in 2017, with a club option at the same number in 2018.
“I just want to be healthy this season,’’ Perkins said. “If I’m healthy and have a good year, the Twins will decide on the option for 2018. If they aren’t interested, I’m almost sure that I’ll be done.
“I don’t see myself pitching anywhere other than Minnesota. There are too many things there for me, starting with my family, with Alisha and our two girls, to start kicking around, looking for jobs with other teams.’’