MINNEAPOLIS -- While improving the rotation is a top priority for the Twins this offseason, the bullpen could use reinforcements as well, especially with closer Glen Perkins still rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder.
Minnesota relievers combined to post a 4.60 ERA that ranked as the fifth-worst mark in the Majors last year, but they did show improvement in generating strikeouts, ranking 15th in strikeouts per nine innings after finishing last in that statistic in 2015. And they did it all mostly without Perkins, a three-time All-Star who made two relief appearances in April before eventually undergoing season-ending surgery on his left labrum in June.
Perkins, 33, knows the success rate of the surgery isn't very high, but he's already started his throwing program and is optimistic he'll be ready for Spring Training. He threw for the seventh time this week, but said it's been at light intensity and not off a mound.
"I feel good now," Perkins said. "Hopefully that will continue. I've got another four months to go. I know I've made progress, but there's a lot more to be made."
If Perkins isn't ready to close, the Twins still have veteran Brandon Kintzler, who was a pleasant surprise in 2016, picking up 17 saves with a 3.15 ERA. Kintzler is eligible for arbitration and could be moved this offseason, but gives the Twins insurance for Perkins.
The Twins also have returning bullpen arms coming off strong seasons such as Taylor Rogers and Ryan Pressly, while others have shown potential such as hard-throwers Trevor May and J.T. Chargois. May is also being considered for the rotation, which might mean another starter such as Tyler Duffey could move to the bullpen.
The new front office under the leadership of chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine will have interesting decisions to make about the bullpen, but Perkins said he trusts them. They're not likely to make a splash, but as the Twins have shown in recent years, even signing veteran relievers to a Minor League deal can pay off, like they did with Fernando Abad, Blaine Boyer, Jared Burton and Kintzler.
Perkins, who openly embraces analytics, went to the press conference for Falvey and Levine on Monday, and came away impressed by what he saw.
"I'm excited for what's to come," Perkins said. "They're going to bring a different kind of energy to the organization. It's exciting."
Perkins, though, acknowledged that he's on the downslope of his career, especially after suffering the injury, and might not be around for a potential turnaround. Perkins has one year left on his deal, with a $6.5 million club option for '18. But the Minnesota native indicated he'd love to remain in the organization after his playing days are over, especially with a more analytically driven front office in place.
"I see myself being a part of this organization a lot longer than my contract on the field," Perkins said. "I get the opportunity to put a uniform on and play baseball. Obviously, you want to win, but the opportunities I've had, how lucky I've been, to do the things I've done, it would be a lot more fun if we won more. But that's baseball."