Thursday, August 18, 2011

Perkins showing signs of overuse

There have been many struggles this year for the Twins out of the bullpen. The use of multiple closers and inconsistency from various pitchers have characterized the late-inning pitchers for the Twins. The organization also had to deal with the loss of many reliable relief options in the free agency process. The plan for the Twins heading into the season was to put together various unproven bullpen pieces and hope that it would work out.

That plan did not work out to perfection this season.

Even with all of the negativity surrounding the bullpen, there have been positives from some of the relief pitchers. Glen Perkins would have to be one of the most biggest positives for the Twins in a season that does not have many positive performances. He has shown the ability to get right-handed and left-handed batters out in some tough situations. Combine that with his increased velocity and Perkins has been one of the most reliable set-up men in the majors this year.

After being almost perfect for most of the season, Perkins seems to have hit a rough patch in the last  two weeks of the season. On August 5th, the lefty saw his ERA drop to a minuscule 1.45 after pitching 1.1 innings against the White Sox. In the very next game versus the same team, Perkins gave up two earned runs for the first time all season. A couple of days later, he found the dangerous Boston line-up tough to handle by giving up three hits in an outing for only the third time this season. Boston would again prove too much for Perkins on August 10th when he blew the lead in the eighth before the Twins scored two in the bottom half to win the game. In Cleveland over the weekend, Perkins coughed up the go-ahead run to give the Indians the victory.

Before this tough stretch of games for Perkins, he seemed to be almost untouchable when he was on the mound. He had not given up runs in three consecutive outings all season. Only one other time had he given up multiple hits in consecutive appearances. In his last 20 outings prior to these bad games, Perkins had allowed five hits and one earned run with an 0.51 ERA. This also included him striking out 21 batters in only 17.2 innings pitched.

Last night in Detroit seemed to be the topper on the Perkins is struggling argument. Perkins entered the game in the eighth inning after the Twins had just scored in the top half of the inning to take a one run lead. Victor Martinez greeted Perkins by doubling to center field. The next batter Alex Avila walked on six pitches to fill first base. After a mound visit, Perkins threw all fastballs to Jhonny Peralta but none of them found the strike zone. Peralta walked to first to load the bases with nobody out in the inning. Matt Capps would enter the game in a tough spot and Perkins' night was complete after failing to record an out.

With the possibility of the team losing both Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, Perkins is going to have a significant role in the Twins bullpen in 2012. He has shown that he can be a reliable option in the late innings of games to get some big outs in tough spots. This recent rough patch of games has been tough for Perkins and in the dugout last night it was clear to see the frustration on his face. In his first full season as a relief pitcher with the Twins, it seems as if he might be entering the territory of being overused by his manager. After last night's debacle, it will be interesting to see how the team will use Perkins in his next few outings.

The Twins may need to rely on Perkins even more next season but overusing him in 2011 is not going to help his chances in 2012.

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