For Twins closer Perkins, life is good at start of 2014 season
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Some of Glen Perkins’ first memories growing up as a baseball fan were of watching the Minnesota Twins win the 1991 World Series. Scott Erickson. Frank Viola and Kent Hrbek, because they were lefties like him. Homer hankies. The ear-splitting Metrodome.
Staying in his native Minnesota appealed to Glen Perkins and his family. That’s why he asked for — and received — an extension.
But childhood memories aside, Perkins wanted to remain a Twin for another reason.
He sees where this team is headed with the pitching acquired, talented, young hitters on the horizon and he wants to be a part of it.
"I believe in the direction we’re going," Perkins said.
Perkins signed a four-year contract extension through 2017 with a club option for 2018. He had his 2014 salary restructured. He will now make $4.025 million this season, $4.65 million in 2015, $6.3 million in 2016 and $6.5 million in 2017. If the club picks up the option, Perkins will earn $6.5 million in 2018. There’s a $700,000 buyout if the Twins don’t pick up the option.
"I wanted to make sure I’m here a little longer," the St. Paul-born Perkins said. "We approached them and said ‘Are you interested in doing this and they said, ‘Yeah.’"
The Twins now have a guy who is coming off his first all-star season. Perkins was named the Twins Pitcher of the Year by the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association after going 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings. He also converted 36 of 40 saves.
"He’s always had stuff," Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "He just grew with confidence. He knew he could be a closer and he was confident he could do it, day in, day out."
To hear set-up man Jared Burton, he’s like a machine. "A different breed, you know?," reliever Casey Fien said.
Level-headed in emotions. Has his two pitches — three if you count a two-seamer as well as a four-seamer — and he can strike out guys by power or hitting a corner.
"He goes out and runs through three hitters," Burton said. "It’s what (manager Ron Gardenhire) wants to see."
As first baseman Joe Mauer said, this is a guy who found his niche. After bouncing between reliever and starter, he stayed in the bullpen and as his velocity picked up, so did his dominance.
"I didn’t have the stuff I have now and I had some success," he said. "You learn to pitch. I didn’t come up blowing guys away. I pitched and hit corners and did the little things on the mound. When I started to throw harder, it became easier. I still wanted to be fine but now I had command and control pitching 95, 96 instead of 88, 89."
In May 2007, Perkins threw gas when he tore his latissimus dorsi muscle. He missed 100 games and took a few years before he got his velocity up. The results came last year and it resulted in his first all-star appearance.
"That’s the best of the best," he said. "To get to be there and represent the Twins in the all-star game, that’s a cool experience, one I’ll never forget if I can get to go again."
When he talked with Boston’s Dustin Pedroia in the outfield about striking him out in a challenging at-bat, that was a big sign he knew he belonged.
For those hoping Perkins will get more chances for saves, he’s confident in the future. He fully backed the return of Gardenhire and Anderson and was impressed how quickly the team went out and signed starters Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. With workhorse Kevin Correia and a healthy Mike Pelfrey, the Twins have four guys who are capable of throwing 200 innings. That would be just like the good, ole days.
"If you can be solid 1-5, you can bring the floor up. It’s not how high the ceiling is, it’s how high you can bring up the floor," Perkins said. "We did a good job of winning games that were close in the end.
"I don’t think we’re very far. I think we’ll surprise some people, stay in games and give our hitters a chance at the end of games.
"I think we’ll be a lot better than people think."