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Updated: February 14th, 2013 11:59am
Twins take low-risk, moderate-reward flyer on lefty Rafael Perez

Twins take low-risk, moderate-reward flyer on lefty Rafael Perez

by Phil Mackey and Judd Zulgad
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Minnesota Twins announced Thursday they have signed veteran left-hander Rafael Perez to a minor league contract with an invite to major league camp.

The 30-year-old Perez owns a 3.64 career ERA in 329 innings, all out of the bullpen with the Cleveland Indians. His 2012 season was cut short due to shoulder problems, which eventually led to surgery in September.

Perez just started throwing off a mound last week, so the Twins will ease him into workouts as spring training progresses.

Early in his career, Perez was a strikeout artist, fanning more than a batter per inning in his first three years. But those strikeout numbers dropped off significantly between 2009 and 2012.

Here's the twist -- Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony told 1500 ESPN's Judd & Dubay Show that Perez's agent inquired about the possibility of Perez converting to a starter.

Despite never starting in the big leagues, Perez was a starter for most of the first five years of his minor league career. He last started regularly in 2007 for Triple-A Buffalo.

"We're not going to turn a blind eye toward anything," Antony said. "If he's healthy and does a good job, we have no problem with that."

Antony said doctors and trainers have "poured through" Perez's medical records to confirm he is on track to contribute this season, although the Twins will not owe him any money should things fail to work out -- unlike with Joel Zumaya last year, who earned $800,000 despite blowing out his elbow in spring training.

"We think this has an opportunity to have some upside, much like the Rich Harden situation," Antony said.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
Judd Zulgad is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Joel Zumaya