Updated: September 9th, 2012 2:15pm
Ron Gardenhire has 'no problem with (Glen Perkins) being closer'

Ron Gardenhire has 'no problem with (Glen Perkins) being closer'

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins haven't made anything official yet, and it's possible no official conversation will take place.

But Glen Perkins has emerged, not surprisingly, as the team's primary closer. And with Matt Capps currently sidelined with a bad shoulder and likely to become a free agent in a month, the role is almost certainly Perkins' in 2013.

Manager Ron Gardenhire almost acknowledged as much on Sunday. Unofficially.

"I have no problem with him being closer," Gardenhire said. "We've said we'd use (Jared) Burton on days where Perkins can't, but I've got no problem with Perk being my closer. I like it."

Perkins has been almost entirely untouchable over the past month, allowing only seven baserunners in 12 scoreless innings while striking out nine. Five of his 11 saves this season have come over that stretch as well.

Until recently, Perkins had solidified himself as the Twins' best reliever over the past two seasons while roaming mostly between the seventh and eighth innings, pitching in any scenario against any part of any lineup. The left-hander owns a 2.51 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 122 innings dating back to the beginning of last year.

Perkins, who signed a three-year, $10 million extension that kicks in next year, has acknowledged he likes pitching in the seventh and eighth innings because sometimes those innings present higher-leverage situations than what a closer might see -- tied games, trailing by a run, entering the game with runners on base, etc.

Gardenhire acknowledges Perkins' value as a seventh- and eighth-inning guy too, saying, "We still look at situations. We still come up a couple times and said if we get to here and we've got a lead, and they're all left-handed in the eighth, we'll just put Perkins in there and let Burton close.

"(Saturday) night it was all lefties in the eighth, I think -- at least a switch-hitter and then left-left -- I said, 'Andy, just put Burton out there. It's 3-0...' I just felt comfortable throwing Perkins in there in the ninth and Burton in the eighth. ...

"When you have a guy like that with that kind of arm... I still have to have someone to finish the game off at the end. If he's able to do that too, you can't use him in both slots. So that's what we're kind of searching for. ...

"Perk is set up to do whatever role you want him to, but I like seeing him close. He's coming in winging the ball pretty good. It's going to happen quick. He's not going to mess around too much it doesn't look like, and that's what we want in a closer."

In front of Perkins, the Twins will continue to use right-hander Jared Burton and also left-hander Brian Duensing, who appears to be destined for the bullpen long-term.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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