ST. PAUL, Minn. — Throughout his entire seven-year major league career, Glen Perkins has known only one uniform: the red, white and blue of the Minnesota Twins. This March, though, Perkins will don another uniform of the same colors when he represents the United States in the World Baseball Classic.
Perkins, the Twins’ 29-year-old closer, found out the news last Friday when he talked with former MLB manager and Team USA skipper Joe Torre. It will be Perkins’ first time pitching for the United States.
“I thought there might have been a chance, but you never really know. There’s so many good players, so I think to be considered and to obviously get a spot is an honor,” Perkins said Tuesday during a stop on the Twins’ Winter Caravan. “It’s almost as high of an honor as I think you can get. … It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m sure it’s going to go fast. I’ll try to enjoy it.”
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This year’s World Baseball Classic begins in early March, meaning it will cut into teams’ spring training schedules. Perkins and the United States team will first compete in Pool D, which will have its games played at Chase Field in Phoenix.
The final rosters haven’t been announced — everything will be finalized Thursday — but joining Perkins on Team USA will be another Twin and current battery mate Joe Mauer.
“I texted him on Friday when I found out and he called me back. He’s pretty excited,” Perkins said of Mauer. “It’ll be fun to at least — well, for me anyway, he probably knows a lot of the guys that are there — but to know someone there. I’m excited to see when the (roster) comes out.”
There’s one other reliever Perkins hopes to see on that Team USA roster: former Twins closer and current Texas Ranger Joe Nathan. Perkins and Nathan were close friends while Nathan was in Minnesota.
“I’m hoping Nathan’s on it,” Perkins said. “I know he’s been on the last two, so I hope he gets a chance because it would be fun to play with him again, too.”
The United States’ first game in pool play is against Mexico on March 8. After that, the U.S. will play Italy, before closing pool play with a game against Canada. On the Canadian roster is another player Perkins knows well: Twins first baseman Justin Morneau.
Morneau has taken part in two previous World Baseball Classics in 2006 and 2009. Perkins has never faced the 31-year-old British Columbia native in a game, but could get his first opportunity when Team USA and Team Canada square off on March 10.
“I don’t know what other lefty relievers there are, so there’s probably a fair chance I’ll get to pitch against him, which would be fun,” Perkins said. “I faced him in the live (batting practice) in spring training. He’s a guy I’ll have to bear down on. I’ll need the upper hand on him.”
If Team USA advances out of pool play, it will move on to play at Marlins Park in Miami the following week. The WBC Championship round will take place at AT&T Park in San Francisco from March 17-19.
Once the World Baseball Classic is done, it’ll be back to focusing on the regular season for Perkins. That will mean preparing to begin the year as the Twins’ closer, something that will be a first for him. He moved into the closer’s role during the 2012 season when Matt Capps was injured, and Perkins thrived in that role.
Perkins finished the year with 16 saves — he had just two total saves in his career prior to 2012 — and posted a 2.56 ERA in a career-high 70 appearances. In 31 save situations, he had a 2.70 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 30 innings.
Even though his role this spring might be different than it was a year ago, Perkins said the approach doesn’t change.
“I’ve been preparing the same,” he said. “It’ll be different when I pitch. But I kind of did it the second half of the season last year, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Perkins has kept the same offseason routine for the last several years. It’s a bit different than most baseball players in that Perkins has “more or less quit lifting weights.” But he does plenty else to prepare for spring training, which starts in less than a month.
“It’s not a workout program or anything like that. I just try to do something every day to burn calories or stay active, whether it’s swimming or racquetball or getting out on the rink and skating, something like that,” Perkins said. “I want to do something every day. Making sure my arm is in shape is No. 1.”