After suffering a severe shoulder injury that required his labrum be reattached over the offseason, Glen Perkins is nearing a return to the big leagues. I was skeptical this day would ever come, but the Twins former closer has worked his tail off to be where he is today. The question remains, can this version of Perkins be an asset in relief for Paul Molitor's squad?
Perkins last appeared on a big league mound on April 10, 2016. It marked two innings of ineffective pitching a year ago. You'd have to go back to July 11, 2015 to find the last instance in which Perkins was right on the mound. Fortunately for the Twins, when Perkins was right, he was among the best in the game. A three time All Star, Perkins totaled at least 32 saves each year from 2013-2015. He has been a steadying force at the back end of a bullpen for what amounted to pretty poor teams. As he returns though, it's fair to wonder what is left.
Having now pitched at three different levels on the farm in rehab stints, Perkins has posted a 6.14 ERA across 7.1 IP. His 10 strikeouts in that span are exciting, but they've been paired with an unfortunate five walks. Velocity returning has been a big question, and aside from a few low 90's reports, he's hovered somewhere in the high 80's. It's hard to imagine the life on his fastball being better than what it was, and he's dipped from 96 mph in 2013, to 92.1 mph a year ago.
Looking at the boost Perkins could provide however, is somewhat notable given the Twins current situation. While the bullpen has been better than it started out, there's still some easily replaceable parts. Maybe the easiest place to see the former closer slot in, is with a swap for lefty Buddy Boshers. Across 29.0 IP in 2017, Boshers has posted a 4.66 ERA that's due for even more regression with a 5.41 FIP. His strikeout rate has dipped to 7.4 K/9 and his walk rate has ballooned to a 3.1 BB/9 mark. Effective only against lefties, he's been exposed at the highest level of the game.
Asking Perkins to slot in and take over Boshers' spot in the pen is a pretty mediocre ask. Being better than a 4.50+ ERA while limiting walks shouldn't be a tall task for a big league arm. What we don't know is whether or not Perkins still has the stuff to play at the highest level of competition. It's an easy move to tag him in, and it could end up being just as easy to remove him.
The day appears to be coming that the Twins will need to make a decision. In terms of his rehab calendar, there's only a few days left in which the Twins can leave him on the farm. From everything Glen has stated publicly, he believes he's ready to go and wants to compete. For a guy that's given the organization so much, and has a team option left for next year, he's earned the opportunity for a swan song.
It'd be pretty unfortunate to see Perkins go out and be shelled, effectively ended his time as a big league. His rope is probably pretty close to the end regardless, but it would be a much better story to allow him success and the ability to go out on top. This book is probably in its final chapter, but the author has yet to write the last few pages.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are going to have to give the Minnesota native an answer, and the result seems to be a harmless one no matter what takes place. Perkins replacing Boshers is of little note, and should he too need to be replaced, there's more than a few capable arms still in the prospect realms waiting to hear their names called.
Baseball is a tough game, and it generally dictates to everyone when they'll be done playing it. Rarely do athletes go out on their own terms, and some have harder exits than others. I'm pulling for Glen Perkins to ride off into the sunset, but I'm not certain how rocky the path will be.