Twins closer Glen Perkins hasn’t pitched in a game since early April and has now suffered a pair of setbacks in his rehab, prompting him to head to Los Angeles to receive a third opinion on his shoulder from renowned orthopedist Dr. Neal ElAttrache, as Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweeted yesterday. Perkins himself joined Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN on the radio yesterday and offered a candid and fairly bleak update on his efforts to return from a left shoulder strain (links to Twitter): “I can’t throw a ball more than fifty percent off a mound without pain.” Perkins, according to Mackey, had an MRI in Minneapolis yesterday before heading out to see ElAttrache.
As 1500 ESPN’s Derek Wetmore writes, Perkins described the injury to Mackey in more detail during the interview, citing a “stabbing” sensation in his shoulder and expressing frustration that he appears to have actually taken a step backward in each of his attempts to throw a bullpen session. “I don’t have a good feeling about it but hopefully that’ll be proven wrong,” Perkins said of today’s appointment. Suffice it to say, the Twins don’t appear to be in position to get their top reliever healthy at any point in the near future. Back in April, team doctors and an outside second opinion agreed that surgery wasn’t necessary to repair Perkins’ shoulder, but the prolonged absence and multiple setbacks are unequivocal red flags. Wetmore notes that GM Terry Ryan said on Sunday that there wasn’t yet any consideration of shutting Perkins down for the season
Perkins, a former first-round pick (22nd overall in 2004), toiled as a starter for the early portion of his career before emerging as a lockdown setup man in 2011 and ultimately rising to claim the team’s closer role midway through the 2012 season. From 2011-13, he was somewhat quietly one of baseball’s best relievers, recording a 2.45 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 194 2/3 innings. Neck and back injuries have shortened each of his past two seasons, and he’s appeared in just two games in 2016. Perkins is earning $6.3MM with another $6.5MM guaranteed for the 2017 season. Minnesota also carries a $6.5MM club option on him for the 2018 season (his age-35 campaign), which comes with a $700K buyout.
Had the Twins performed up to expectations this season, perhaps there’d be cause for Perkins to attempt to rush back to the mound more aggressively, but Minnesota’s current 20-43 record and last-place standing in the AL Central gives both the team and Perkins every reason to exercise caution. Minnesota has used Kevin Jepsen at closer for the majority of the season in his absence, but while Jepsen filled in well for Perkins in 2015, he’s struggling through one of the worst seasons of his career in 2016. Minnesota has recently installed minor league signees Brandon Kintzler and Fernando Abad as a closer committee.