Tue 19 Jul 2011
While the Twins most famous homegrown product’s season has been marred by injury, controversy and disappointment, there is one local boy who has done Minnesota proud in 2011. Stillwater’s Glen Perkins has quietly become the team’s most consistent and dominant reliever.
A 1st round pick in 2004 after a standout career at the University of Minnesota, Perkins debuted in 2006 and looked to be a future stalwart in the Twins rotation after going 12-4 with 4.41 ERA in 2008. Then the trouble started.
During an injury riddled 2009 campaign, Perkins filed a grievance against the Twins alleging the organization sent him to the minors following a stint on the Disabled List to keep him from earning enough major league service time to qualify for arbitration. The matter was eventually settled, but many felt Perkins had burned too many bridges to make it back to Twins Territory.
Instead, the lefthander returned in 2010, but spent the bulk of the season toiling in Rochester, making just 13 appearances for the Twins. Perkins entered the 2011 campaign with nothing guaranteed, not even a job in the Twins rebuilt bullpen. Seizing the moment, the 28-year-old has given up just 28 hits and 7 earned runs in 35 2/3 innings with 13 holds and a 1.77 ERA.
Perkins and I discussed his breakout season, Joe Nathan, the re-inflated Metrodome and the local football team during the Kansas City series last week.
DZ: You are having a really good year individually, pitching pretty well – what are your thoughts on how things are going?
PERKINS: It’s been going well. I am finally healthy and throwing the ball well and they are putting me in situations where I can succeed – and getting into a lot of games. I’ve been able to stay sharp and things like that. It’s been more than I could’ve asked for this year. It’s gone well; I’ve worked hard, worked hard to get back where I thought I should be. I am there and I am working my butt off to stay where I am at and continue to have a good year.
DZ: Do you see yourself long term in the bullpen or do you want to start (eventually)?
PERKINS: That ship has sailed. I made some starts here in ’08 and ’09 and a start last year, (but) I like where I am at. I am comfortable and it’s easier for me to focus. I’ve really enjoyed it, I’ve really enjoyed this year. Obviously, this is the most successful I’ve been in a baseball season since I was in college, so it’s easy to enjoy it. It hasn’t even been just the success; it’s been going out there every day and knowing that I might get to pitch and my ability to focus when I know that I might be playing that night. It’s so much greater.
DZ: You’ve had a couple of saves this year, pitching in the 9th inning. Is there a different feel to it than pitching in the 8th inning?
PERKINS: I think that it is very similar because yeah, it’s the 9th inning and if I got the guys out, the game is over. If I go out there in the 7th or 8th in the same kind of situation and don’t get the job done the game is going to be over too – we are going to lose. That’s the mentality I took into it and I was a lot more relaxed and a lot less nervous and a lot more calm than I thought I was going to be, which was good. It was a good test to get into a situation like that and be able to succeed and help out Cappy.
DZ: You get to celebrate a little more in the 9th than you maybe do in the 8th inning…
PERKINS: Yeah, I always see that – the starting pitcher pitches 7 or 8 innings and he gets taken out and he tips his hat as he’s walking off the field. He leaves two guys on base and reliever comes in and gives up a homerun. When the game is over, the game is over. I definitely know that pitching earlier in the game, you don’t want to celebrate. You may have done a good job, but the game is not over yet. It’s a different feeling finishing a game, but during the game it’s the same thought process.
DZ: How has Joe Nathan helped your adjustment to the bullpen?
PERKINS: You know what, he’s been great. I’ve played with him since ’06 and was in the bullpen with him in ’06 and ’07, (but) he always had Matty Guerrier and Jesse (Crain) and those guys, so I was always on the outside looking in. This year, I’ve really gotten to know him well and play catch with him and spend a lot of time with him. I talk to him pretty much nonstop throughout the day. He’s just a guy that if there are any little questions – we talk about matchups, we talk about how to pitch guys – he’s been through it, he’s done it. He’s a resource – he’s so willing to help. That’s been awesome for me. Ever since I got here really – he treats everyone the same. Even more so this year, kinda adjusting to the role. He does things the right way out there.
DZ: You mentioned Matt Guerrier and Crain being gone, is everybody getting comfortable in their roles down there (in the bullpen)?
PERKINS: Yeah, I think we are figuring it out. We’ve kinda ran through some guys, but we are getting settled in down there, pitching pretty well and it’s been going better as of late. Hopefully we’ll keep in rolling.
DZ: The last couple of years hadn’t gone the way you’d hoped – there was off-the-field stuff too – what did you learn from all of that?
PERKINS: You know, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger. It’s that old cliché. It’s just part of the game. You learn not to take anything for granted. I definitely learned that things don’t always go the way you think they are going to go. It helped me in the long run just to know that you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low because I’ve had a lot of highs and a lot of lows. You just learn to handle situations and not get wound up and not get caught up in what is going on.
DZ: I’ve got to ask you one last Minnesota question — you saw the Dome was back up this week, what are your thoughts on that?
PERKINS: You know I heard that, I haven’t seen it yet; I’ve got to drive over there. I saw pictures from the inside and it looks like they did some different stuff on the inside. I’ve never been to a Vikings in the Dome and I don’t plan on going, but I don’t know how I am going see in there, so I might have to go to a game after all.
DZ: You are not a Vikings fan?
PERKINS: I am, but I have only been to one Vikings game and it was the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans a couple of years ago. It’s the only one I’ve ever been to. I watch on TV, I think football is fun to watch on TV, I’ve just never got into going to games. But, I don’t know how else I am going to get in there, so I might be going to a Vikings game just to see it.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
July 17: Ben Revere
July 3: Scott Baker
June 13: Rene Rivera
June 10: Nick Blackburn
June 2: Trevor Plouffe
May 31: Phil Dumatrait
May 28: Justin Morneau
May 24: Denard Span
May 1: Jim Hoey
April 28: Jason Kubel
April 19: Jeff Manship
April 15: Dusty Hughes
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