MINNEAPOLIS — Glen Perkins has finally returned to the Minnesota Twins, with the bonus of a playoff race and a bullpen in need of some help.
He's not the hard-throwing three-time All-Star closer he once was. He's just grateful for another chance to be on a major league mound after missing more than 16 months because of shoulder trouble.
"I did everything I could to hold up my end of the bargain and try to make it as quick as I could, and they've held up their end of the bargain," Perkins said. "They're going to give me a chance to pitch, and that's all I really wanted out of this whole thing."
Perkins was reinstated from the disabled list Thursday before Minnesota's doubleheader against Cleveland, with all arms needed on deck against the division-leading Indians. In the first game, Perkins got one out while facing six batters in the ninth inning. He allowed one walk, two singles and two hit by pitches while being charged with two runs.
This was his first appearance for the Twins since April 10, 2016, before being shelved and eventually having surgery to repair a torn labrum on June 23, 2016, and he said afterward the experience on the mound at Target Field for the first time since Oct. 2, 2015, was more emotional than he expected.
Perkins received a hearty cheer from the crowd as he jogged in from the bullpen.
"I appreciate that more than anybody knows," he said.
The rehabilitation process doubled from the initial estimate because of multiple setbacks. After making eight appearances in the minor leagues, Perkins was more than eager to return.
"I had my doubts, but it wasn't like I was going to give up. That wasn't an option," Perkins said before the game. "I would've just kept rehabbing until my contract ran out I guess, if that was the alternative. I at least owed that to them, to give them everything I've got."
Perkins missed 273 straight games, a 493-day absence. The only status he's sure to regain is the veteran privilege of a spacious corner locker.
"My goal is to help wherever I can. To think otherwise would be incredibly selfish on my part," he said. "I checked my ego when I had surgery."
Realizing he's not able to come close to reaching 97 mph anymore with his fastball, topping out around 90 mph instead, Perkins will rely on wisdom, grit, command and movement rather than velocity.
Manager Paul Molitor promised to be careful with Perkins in this initial stage of his reappearance. Though the Twins have not appointed a new closer after trading All-Star Brandon Kintzler, Perkins for now is not a candidate for a save situation or likely to throw more than 20 or 25 pitches at a time.
"Everyone's a little curious to how his stuff's going to match up, up here, given the fact that it's going to be a little bit different-looking Perkins," Molitor said.
To make room for Perkins on the active roster, left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a strained shoulder. Enns, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in the trade for left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia, was originally slated to start on Saturday.
Perkins, who played at Stillwater High School and the University of Minnesota before being drafted by the Twins in the first round in 2004, has spent his entire life in the Twin Cities area. The duration of this recovery process, naturally, has done nothing to persuade Perkins to ponder a stint with another organization once the Twins expectedly decline the $6.5 million option on his contract for 2018 and pay him the $700,000 buyout.
If there's enough success over the final 45 games to entice the front office to offer a bargain-rate deal for next year instead, then this storybook career with the home-state team could continue a little longer. Otherwise, the next six weeks will serve as the curtain call. His two daughters, entering fourth and fifth grade, are more concerned about dad going swimming with them than how many more major league innings he'll pitch.
"It's not worth chasing anything else to leave them for another year," Perkins said. "If I get the opportunity to play here next year, I think my kids are going to be mad at me just for that."
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