Q&A with Glen Perkins: 'Whenever they give me the ball, I'll take it'
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Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins sat down recently for an interview with 1500ESPN.com. Here's an edited Q&A:
A lot has changed in the last year ...
"I guess you could say my career has progressed and in good ways. The next step is I'm here in a role (as the closer). We just need to improve as a team now."
Not only do you have a spot, but I can easily make the case that you are the most important pitcher in that clubhouse.
"It's a long road from where I was a couple years ago, which is why you work hard and keep playing and never give up. I knew I had the talent. It was just a matter of putting it all together on the field. The last two years have gone well. I'm not done yet. I have a lot more to live up to with the contract, but it's stuff I'm looking forward to doing."
What have you done the last two offseasons, then in Fort Myers that have had a say these results?
"The biggest thing was just adjusting to the bullpen and being healthy. At the beginning of 2011, I had some good velocity, but it wasn't what I had shown the last four months of 2011 and last year. Less workload and they have done a good job of monitoring when I throw. Only once last year did I throw four days in a row. It was hardly even three days in a row. They do a good job with that. They do that with all of the guys. They did it with (Jared) Burton last year. They are great at monitoring guys and having a feel for when guys should pitch and shouldn't."
Do you want the ball more three days in a row? Can you handle that?
"Sure. I remember after going four days in a row last year going in and asking for a fifth straight day. You always do that. I don't feel like I was overused at all last year or the year before. Whenever they give me the ball, I'll take it. There was never a day with Joe Nathan when he said he couldn't throw. For two years now, there hasn't been a day when I said I couldn't throw. That's my goal is to be ready every day and take the ball."
What is the key behind that 96, 97 mph fastball?
"I was there in '07, and then I tore my lat. It was a road back to there. It took me four years to get back. I got hurt in May '07, and it was May 2011 when I got the velocity back. It's been there. It was somewhere still in there. I rediscovered it, I guess you can say."
It's a nice 1-2 punch with you and Burton for those final six outs. The key is for the team to find a way to get the lead in those first seven innings.
"(Brian) Duensing will be out there too. Righties only hit 1-something against Burton last year and I'm sure lefties hit under-.200 against Duensing. I had some pretty even splits. Those two guys with the righties and lefties -- it should be a good fit. Those two will fit how Burton and I did last year when (Matt) Capps was healthy. Hopefully, they can get me the ball. It'll be interesting to see how we get to the seventh, eighth inning. We made some moves and hopefully, they work out."
Can they work out, or are you rebuilding and the playoffs are a long shot?
"You could've said the same thing (last year) for the A's and Orioles. Some guys stepped up. We have some guys. You don't know how (Mike) Pelfrey will bounce back (from Tommy John surgery). I feel like we'll be stronger in the rotation than last year. That's all you can ask for. We scored enough runs last year. We have to do a better job of preventing them. We made some upgrades and we'll get down there (to Fort Myers) and see how it works out."
Overrated or underrated: the idea that it'll be struggle for some of those starters making the transition from the National League to the American League?
"There is evidence that says it's harder to pitch in the American League. That's not to say guys can't make the adjustment. You just have to know that you don't get the pitcher or a slap-hitting 8 guy. You just have to make pitches when you get into situations and be competitive. They want guys who compete and do as well as they can. Then in the end, hopefully things break right."
Are you working on any new pitches or tweaks to current pitches?
"Not really. For me, continuing to command, throw it where I want and limiting mistakes. Last year, when I got hurt, it was mistake pitches. If you can minimize mistakes, you'll minimize the damage. Being able to throw it where I want is the biggest thing for me -- with a little bit more velocity, being able to command that can be pretty dangerous. So, adding more pitches isn't really necessary right now. That door is always open. I'll adjust when they adjust."
Do you know right away when the ball leaves your hand that you blew a pitch?
"Yeah. That was Andruw Jones in September. You throw a pitch and as it leaves your hand, you think, 'That's going to get hit far.' Mistakes happen. I gave up eight homers last year, but that's not to say I only made eight mistakes. Sometimes mistakes get hit into outs or they get swung-and-missed at. It's physical. It's never mental. I'm always focused when I am out there. It's just a case of sound mechanics. You'll never get rid of them (mistakes), but you can minimize them."
Are there times you know as you're jogging to the mound that the opponents have no chance to touch you?
"There's times I feel crappy in the bullpen and I go out and pitch well, and there's times when I feel good in the bullpen and I don't. But there are times I can see our bullpen catcher flinching or struggling to catch my slider. I'll know. You still have to go out and execute. There are times I feel good and I'll go out and it'll be a quick inning. It's a good feeling when that happens. You try and recapture that."
The elephant in the room is the future of manager Ron Gardenhire with no contract for 2014.
"We need to go out and play. I have a hard time saying how we played the last two years was his fault. Everything I read and heard was that he said he didn't earn one (a contract extension). I know Terry Ryan has talked about no scholarships and maybe it applies to them (the whole coaching staff), too. Everything he's done for me and everyone else, it's unfortunate. I feel bad that we haven't gone out and done a better job for him. We know how hard all those coaches work. It falls on our shoulders that those guys got fired or Gardy didn't get his contract extension because we haven't played well. You take a sense of pride in going out and playing well. Those guys rely on us. We have to get the job done for them."
It has to be flattering that the Dodgers called -- and I bet others -- and unless the offer is so ridiculous, you're nearly untouchable.
"This is where I'm from. Everyone knows the story. I want to be here. That's why I signed. I gave myself a chance to stay here and I hope they give me a chance to pitch here for a long time. Hopefully, it'll all work out."
As a closer and having a presence for a number of years, you're now fully entrenched as a clubhouse leader.
"I would like to think. There are a lot of young guys. Scott Diamond's locker is next to me. We talk a lot. Other guys come to me. I've been through everything you can go through as a big-leaguer, as a minor-leaguer -- ups and downs, highs and lows. I've experienced it. I'd like to think I am one of those guys that guys can come to."
It wasn't a complete makeover of the coaching staff. Rick Anderson is back.
"Some continuity is good. A complete overhaul would be a shock when you get to spring training. It's still the same program. It'll be the same expectations. I'm happy he's coming back. I know he's pretty bummed about what happened last fall. It's a part of the game. Those things happen. Hopefully, we do better this year and those guys don't have to worry."
You have bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar now to lean on as well.
"I had him almost the whole year in 2010 when I was at AAA. He knows baseball. He knows pitching. He's another voice. He'll be valuable -- mechanically, mentally. He's a good coach, a good coach to have out there."
Making the World Baseball Classic has to be as high an honor as you can achieve.
"That's what I told my agent. He got excited. That along with going to an All-Star Game go hand-in-hand. It's an honor. It's a little surreal."
Did you know a call from Joe Torre was coming?
"I had no idea. I was at a hot rod shop working on my truck. There were machines running and the radio was loud, so I missed a call. I had a voicemail from an area code I didn't know. I then tried to listen to the voicemail, but it was loud. All I heard was Joe Torre. I got that feeling I had when I got drafted. You get that pit in your stomach. I then went outside and listened to the voicemail again so I could hear it. I did some fist pumps and was jumping up-and-down. I called my wife to tell her. I then called him back and talked to him. It was a neat experience."
Would you welcome the addition of Joe Saunders?
"The longer you wait, the prices come down for some guys. He's a guy who throws 200 innings and that's what we need. It would be a good addition. It'll be interesting to see what happens."