FORT MYERS, Fla. — Glen Perkins’ professional baseball career began with the Minnesota Twins organization. He wants it to end that way too.
He’s just not quite ready for that day to come.
“In an ideal world I’d get to finish here,” Perkins said. “I’ve been in the organization for 14 years, but there are so many variables, too many things that can happen. That’s what I’d like to do, but we’ll see what happens.”
Perkins hasn’t pitched since the opening week of last season. The 33-year-old lefthander underwent surgery in late June to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. There is no guarantee that he will be able to regain the form that made him a three-time All-Star. A second procedure could require an 18-month rehabilitation process.
“I just want to be healthy. I haven’t been healthy in the last two years, and obviously I missed all of last year,” Perkins said. “First I want to get to the point where I can pitch and feel good when I do. When the phone rings I don’t want to be unavailable.”
Perkins will make $6.5 million with Minnesota this season. The Twins hold a $6.5 million option for 2018, or they can exercise a $700,000 buyout.
“I’m not looking that far ahead,” Perkins said. “I miss pitching. I miss playing. Beyond that, I’m not really worried about what happens.”
Perkins went to Stillwater High School, less than 30 miles east of Target Field. Then he pitched two seasons for the University of Minnesota, finishing 19-5 with a 2.87 ERA, 13 complete games and 230 strikeouts in 216 1/3 innings. He was named the 2004 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and drafted a few weeks later in the first round by the Twins with the 22nd overall pick.
Eleven major league seasons later, Perkins is 35-25 with a 3.83 ERA, 120 saves and 502 strikeouts in 618 2-3 innings after making the switch from starting to relief.
“I’m not concerned with seeing anything from him other than hearing at the end of the day of the physicality of him throwing his 15 pitches or whatever it is going to be,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “I’m just looking for the really small steps of improvement so he starts to gain confidence with what he can do with a baseball.”
Perkins took part in a long-toss throwing session on Thursday and will take the mound for his second bullpen session of spring training on Saturday. With one minor exception, his eight-month rehabilitation schedule has gone as planned. Instead of icing his shoulder after workouts, Perkins has used an electronic stimulator to help with recovery and rebuild the muscles.
“I’ve made good progress here over the last week so we’ll see how it goes,” Perkins said. “Everything is day-by-day right now.”
Until Perkins can re-establish himself at full health and strength, his role will be unclear. Closer Brandon Kintzler is back after recording 17 saves and a 3.15 ERA in 2016. Hard-throwing right-hander J.T. Chargois could also factor into the late-inning equation at some point. Right-hander Matt Belisle was signed as a free agent away from Washington, and right-hander Ryan Pressly and left-hander Taylor Rogers are two other key returners to the bullpen.
If Perkins does suffer a setback at any point, well, he has a time-worn backup plan in place.