MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota Twins closer Glen Perkins has been an All-Star the last two seasons thanks to dominant performances in the first half of both years.
It's the second half that has been the tricky part.
Perkins has seen his production dip significantly after the break in 2014 and 2015 due to issues with his neck and back, and the hometown star is determined to finish the job this year.
''If I would've been halfway competent the second half last year, we make the playoffs,'' Perkins said on Friday, the first day of the Twins' annual fan festival. ''I know the first half I had put us in a good position, but I didn't do my job in the second half.''
Of Perkins' 32 saves last season, 28 of them came before the All-Star break. He blew a save right out of the gate in the second half and was bothered by back spasms from mid-August through the end of the season.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan was quick to point out that there were many factors that kept the team from completing an impressive turnaround with a postseason berth. Perkins and the Twins had suffered through four straight miserable seasons of 90 losses or more. They won 83 in Paul Molitor's first season as manager, but still missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year.
''We need him to go and be available for the 162 games. I don't think there's any question he's a pivotal piece to any success we might have,'' Ryan said.
Perkins said he has worked with a lower back specialist to try and strengthen his core and better prepare him for the grind of a season. He has reported no problems with his back or neck during the winter and said he has gone from being unable to bend over to flush a toilet two weeks after season's end to being able to jump out of bed, bend over and touch his toes.
Still, he's not going to be one of those guys who pronounces himself in the best shape of his life and declares his issues over, as so many players do this time of year. He knows the proof will not come in February when the team reports for spring training in Fort Myers, Florida. He knows it won't come during the season-opening series in Washington in April.
Once he takes the mound in tight game in the ninth inning in August with no pain in his back or stiffness in his neck, that's when he knows the things he has done this winter have worked. The Twins also will have Kevin Jepsen, who came over in a trade with Tampa Bay at the deadline last season, at the back end of the bullpen should Perkins have more difficulty.
''I really have no idea if I'm doing the right thing or not. I'm just doing stuff I haven't done in the past and hopefully that will help,'' Perkins said. ''I feel confident in my workouts so far. I think it'll help, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.''
If it does, maybe the Twins will finally break through to the postseason. Perkins will turn 33 in March and has pitched in just one career playoff game, way back in 2006.
''It's been a long time and I'd like to have that opportunity,'' Perkins said. ''I'm doing everything I can and hopefully it works out.''