Glen Perkins returns to organization he openly questioned

MINNEAPOLIS — After nearly five months of silence, Glen Perkins opened up this week about his grievance against the Twins and his uncertain future with the team.

Sitting down for lunch near his old University of Minnesota stomping grounds, Perkins ordered a turkey sandwich and left it untouched for several minutes, as he explained himself.

"I guess I really found out the hard way that it's a business," Perkins said. "I spent my life cheering for that team. I got drafted by them (in 2004) and got to the majors quick (in 2006), and two weeks later we're in the playoffs. I had a really good year in '08, and everything was rosy. You find out the hard way that it doesn't really matter."

When TwinsFest opens Friday night at the Metrodome, Perkins will be there, signing autographs and reacquainting with teammates. His controversial left shoulder injury has healed, he said, and he's eager to put last season behind him — whether that's in Minnesota or elsewhere.

After a good start, his 2009 season turned into an injury-riddled mess. On Aug. 30, Perkins was rehabbing his arm in Florida, when General Manager Bill Smith called with difficult news. The Twins were taking him off the disabled list and sending him to Class AAA Rochester.


Whether the Twins had this intention or not, the timing kept Perkins from qualifying for arbitration, costing him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We had confidence that we were doing things within the rules," Smith said.

Perkins and his agent, John Courtright, felt otherwise, and the players' union filed a grievance on the pitcher's behalf. A hearing was scheduled for Nov. 13 in New York, but that week, after a terse teleconference, the sides settled.

"It had been going on for 2½ months, and I had just gotten sick of it," Perkins said. "I said let's move on to next year."

In the settlement, the Twins granted Perkins seven days of additional big league service time, under the condition this wouldn't qualify him for arbitration. Most players need three years of service to qualify for arbitration, but Perkins was close to qualifying as a Super Two — a special clause for players who fall days short.

Perkins now has 2 years, 138 days of service. He'll make about $450,000 this year, while Cubs infielder Mike Fontenot — the lowest Super Two qualifier, with 2 years, 139 days — will make $1 million.

Perkins would have preferred to stay on the DL into September, until he proved himself ready to face big-league hitters again. He disagreed with the Twins over the extent of his shoulder injury, eventually getting second and third opinions.

Besides the additional service time, the Twins agreed to pay Perkins his major league salary for September after lowering him to the minor league rate that month.


"It's a settlement that hopefully both sides thought was fair," Smith said.

While the Twins were making their late-season playoff charge, Perkins spent several days bow hunting near Cannon Falls. The solitude gave him plenty of time to reflect. When the team invited him to join their Metrodome farewell celebration, he declined.

"I felt like I should be on that field," he said. "That got taken away from me, so I just wasn't going to do that."

Room on the roster?

Now, Perkins must return to work for an organization he openly questioned in the grievance. He wonders if the Twins will trade him, especially since they have a pitching surplus. Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn are expected rotation locks, leaving Perkins to compete with Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing for the fifth spot. Perkins has experience in relief, but the bullpen is overcrowded, too.

Perkins, who turns 27 on March 2, still has a minor league option, but this spring, he intends to let his on-field performance speak for itself. Keep in mind, he was 12-3 with a 3.96 ERA before tiring late in 2008, then opened last year with three eight-inning starts and a 1.50 ERA before his arm started getting sore.

He focused on strengthening his shoulder this offseason after being assured by all three doctors that he could rehab his injury, instead of undergoing surgery.

He has been throwing at the Gophers' indoor football facility all month and said he feels stronger than ever for this point of the year.


"I think I'm more prepared for this year than I ever have been," he said. "I feel like I'm going into an uphill battle (for a roster spot), but I'm fine. My arm's healthy, and I feel like I'm a major league pitcher. I'm sure if (the Twins) don't think that, then someone else does."

The Twins explored trading Perkins to the Padres for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, before San Diego shipped Kouzmanoff to Oakland. Other teams are said to be interested in Perkins but will wait to see how he pitches in spring training.

"What happened last fall prepared me for (a trade)," Perkins said. "Realizing that at any moment, something like that (demotion) can happen. Do I want to pitch for the Twins? Yeah, I grew up here. I live here (in Lakeville). It makes it a heck of a lot easier for me and my family, but there aren't many guys around baseball who get to do that."

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