Glen Perkins is a Twin Cities kind of guy. A native of St. Paul who played his college ball at the University of Minnesota, the hard-throwing left-hander is now a full-fledged member of the Minnesota starting rotation. Returned to a starting role last season after making his first 23 big-league appearances out of the bullpen, Perkins established himself by going 12-4 with a 4.41 ERA for his hometown team in 151 innings over 26 appearances. Now 26 years old, Perkins was the Twins‘ pick in the first round of the 2004 draft.
David Laurila: How would you describe Glen Perkins?
Glen Perkins: I’m one guy when I’m off the field, and another guy when I’m on the field. I think I’m a little laid back and easygoing off the field, but when I get on the mound I try to be a little more focused, knowing that I have a responsibility to help out the team. When I cross the white line I become a different person, and I like that I can separate the two. I can have fun off the field, and be serious on the field.
DL: How would you describe your pitching style?
GP: You know what, I like going right after hitters. ‘Here it is, this is what I’m going to do.’ I use my best stuff, and don’t make adjustments if a guy is a good fastball hitter. I’m going to challenge him with my fastball, because this is what I do. I’ll take my chances that way, and hopefully my stuff stacks up better than theirs does. I’m someone who will go right at them, get after it, and hopefully come out on the winning end.
DL: What you’re saying is that you’re a guy who does his own thing, rather than trying to attack hitters’ weaknesses?
GP: Yeah, if a guy’s not a good breaking-ball hitter, if I don’t have a good breaking ball going, I’m not going to throw it. I’m going to challenge him with what I have, and what my best pitch is that day. I think that’s a common philosophy with all of our pitchers, that you stick with your stuff; you stick with your guns and go with it.
DL: You’re obviously still young, but have you evolved much as a pitcher since breaking into pro ball?
GP: Yeah, I mean, actually last year… geez, I think I pitched on a Friday in Detroit, and I was on the mound on Sunday throwing a side [session]-this was right before the All-Star break-when our pitching coach, Andy [Rick Anderson], said, “We’re going to throw a slider today. You’re not going to throw a curveball any more.” I’m thinking to myself, “Great. I’m in the middle of my first big-league season as a starter, and here I’m going to learn a slider.” We had three days off coming after that, and I threw some sliders in the pen that were pretty good. I came back on that Wednesday night after the All-Star break, threw a pen, and I ended up pitching Thursday against the Rangers. I had a good game, threw some sliders, and kind of just learned on my feet with that. So I think that’s the biggest thing, dropping a pitch and picking up a new one. So far it has gone pretty well, but I’m still working on it; I’m still trying to perfect it.
DL: What was Rick Anderson’s rationale for having you make that change?
GP: I think it was a thing where my curveball was a little inconsistent. I was kind of getting on top of it a little too much. A slider is something you can stay consistent with, on arm angle and release point, with your fastball and changeup. So it was a little more of a consistency thing for me, to be able to keep my arm in the same slot. Obviously, he didn’t just wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘I’m going to have Perkins throw a slider.’ I’m sure it was well thought out, and I had never really gotten into it, but I trust him. If he says that’s what is best for me, I’m going to give it a try. So far, it has worked out.
DL: I assume you had thrown a slider before?
GP: To be honest, I had goofed around with [a slider] a bit in [batting practice], but I had never even tried to throw one off the mound. So I played my long toss, got up on the mound, and said to myself, ‘Hold on, you’re going to throw a slider today. When you go to throw your curveball, throw a slider.’ It was kind of like, ‘This is how you do it.’ It’s like if you’ve ever ridden a bike, you might be able to get on a Moped and ride a Moped. It was kind of like that. I’ve pitched, and I get the idea. I’ve got the concept of how to throw different pitches. Luckily, I was able to execute it pretty well, and while I’m still working on it, it’s a lot better now than it was that first day in Detroit.
DL: Who has the best slider on the Twins’ staff?
GP: We’ve got a lot of good sliders. Obviously, Frankie [Francisco Liriano] is pretty well known for his, and he’s still getting his back. Bake [Scott Baker] has a pretty good slider. And of the guys in the pen, Joe Nathan has a heck of a nice one; it’s one of his go-to pitches. So we’ve got a lot of guys who throw one, so there are some guys to learn from. I can pick up a little bit from each, and that’s what I’m trying to do. It was weird being 25 years old, with a couple of seasons in the big leagues, and asking guys how to throw pitches. But it’s fun at the same time, and it’s fun to goof around and try to figure different grips out-different things like that.
DL: Everybody is different, so just how much can an individual pitcher learn from somebody else?
GP: If I needed to try to understand the concept of how to throw a pitch, like getting on top of the ball, or getting around the ball, or what it should feel like coming out of your hand, you can definitely… I had zero knowledge on actually throwing a slider, so I consulted a few guys on just different things. I’d play catch with one of them and ask, “How does this one look?” or “How does that one look?” So you can learn more than you think, especially if you’ve never done something. For me, a slider was something completely new.
DL: Can a left-hander learn as much from a right-hander as he can from another left-hander?
GP: You know, as far as grips and feel, yeah. I know that with me and Frankie, the way that a ball comes out of a lefty’s hand might be a little different than from a righty’s, and things like that. But I didn’t really worry about what hand a guy was when I was trying to throw a slider. I just kind of wanted to be able to get the ball spinning the right way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lefty or a righty, it’s going to be a similar pitch from both sides.
DL: As a pitching coach, is Rick Anderson more of a technician or more of a psychologist?
GP: He’s both. He’s obviously good on the technical side. He can pick up things in your delivery; he can pick up things in your release point and your grip-things that he can tweak that may help. And I think that the mental side of him is maybe more just bits and pieces here and there. If you don’t have a good outing, he’s always there to pick you up. He’s never going to say, ‘That was horse crap. That was terrible.’ He’s going to find the good things, like, ‘You made some good pitches, you jammed some guys and they got some tough hits.’ Things like that. I think he more just reinforces your positive beliefs, and that’s probably what he should do, rather than trying to be a psychologist. What he does, and the way he does everything, is pretty darn good.
DL: I was in your clubhouse last year after a game in which the Red Sox scored 18 runs, and judging by his posture, Rick Anderson seemed to have taken it personally. Do you take it personally when you get hit hard?
GP: I mean, yeah. You’re out there on the mound, and they trust you to give the team a chance to win, so it’s really hard if you have a bad game and feel like you didn’t give the team a chance. And I think that, especially last year with the young starters that we have, that Andy started to take it a little more personally, because he feels like he’s had more of a hand in our development than maybe some of the veterans that they’ve brought in. So having us, he might take it a little harder, but I think that’s a position he wants to be in as well. It’s never fun to have a bad outing, but everybody is going to have them, and you just have to try to look past them.
DL: Can you talk a little about your transition from the bullpen back to starting?
GP: You know what, it was kind of like you do one thing your whole life, and then, when you get to the highest level of the game, they switch you out and you really have to learn on the fly. I totally threw myself into being a reliever, because I just wanted to be in the big leagues, and if I was going to be a reliever, that’s what I was. I got used to doing that; I got used to warming up quick and not playing long toss before I got onto the mound. They gave me a chance to start, and it was kind of like trying to ride a bike again. It was trying to remember certain things that you did, like when to warm up, when you get on the mound, and things like that. You’re used to having a phone ring and then you get on the hill, and now you kind of plan on your own. So it took me a little while to get the hang of it, but I did. I was excited to be back to being a starter again.
DL: How would you assess your 2008 season? Were you satisfied?
GP: Yeah, I was satisfied. I could have done a little better. I definitely could have done more in September; I had a very disappointing month. It happens to a lot of guys, and I think the biggest thing is to make sure to avoid it so that it doesn’t happen again. But as a whole, for the first time starting in the big leagues, I’ll take that season. Still, I also know that there is a whole lot of room for improvement.
DL: Do you feel like you’ve established yourself as a major league pitcher?
GP: Well, I wouldn’t say established. I had a good two-thirds, or three-quarters of a season, and I’d like to have another good season this year, but I don’t think anyone is ever really established. If you have a couple of bad seasons, you’re going to find yourself right back in the minor leagues. So you can never take it for granted. I know that going into this year I have a spot, and it’s my intention to keep that spot and not let it go. In a way, that puts more pressure on me than having to fight for a spot, because you know the team is counting on you.
DL: Looking back, did you put pressure on yourself to live up to the high expectations that come with being a first-round pick?
GP: No, because I knew that if I did what I was supposed to do, and if I did what they expected me to do, that I would get here. It obviously takes hard work, and pitching well in games, and things like that, but I knew that if I worked hard I’d get a chance. I would assume that it’s nicer being a higher-round pick, because you might get a little better chance; they might give you a little longer leash. Whether that’s true or not, I worked as hard as anyone else to get here. And I want to stay here for a long time.
DL: How much of a Minnesota guy are you?
GP: Minnesota enough to live there in the winter. I get a lot of questions about that in the offseason because they can’t believe I live there, but you can’t let your people down. I grew up there, and there is no reason to leave. You love or hate the winters, and I don’t mind them. I like the change of seasons, and I welcome that every winter. In the summer, I welcome the summer.