MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A long and arduous shoulder rehab is getting achingly close to completion for former All-Star closer Glen Perkins.
After more than 13 months of starts and stops, encouragement and setbacks, the 34-year-old Perkins has just one goal on his mind.
''All I want to do is get back on that mound one more time,'' Perkins said Sunday. ''Anything after that is just a bonus.''
Perkins will join Double-A Chattanooga in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday for three planned outings. He will throw one inning on Thursday, then is scheduled to pitch in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday. If he clears those hurdles, he could rejoin the Minnesota Twins next week.
''I know it's not entirely up to them and it's not entirely up to me,'' Perkins said. ''It's a combination of both. I feel like if I can get through this next weekend then there should be no reason that I shouldn't be ready to play here.''
The left-hander made just two appearances last year before getting surgery on a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The injury derailed what had been a storybook career for the native of Stillwater, Minnesota, about a 30-minute drive from Target Field. He struggled as a starter early in his career but enjoyed a renaissance when he was moved to the closer role. He made the All-Star team three straight years from 2013-15 and picked up the save in the American League's victory at Target Field in 2014.
Then surfaced the shoulder problems, which can be far more difficult for a pitcher to come back from than the elbow problems that plague so many throughout their careers. Perkins already has taken five months longer to recover from the surgery than was initially expected, and he said the numerous setbacks over the last year have caused him to text his wife on more than one occasion to say he didn't think he was going to be able to make it back.
But he took a cortisone shot about three weeks ago and said his arm has felt great ever since.
''I think for the first time in my rehab really I've been pushing our medical and our front office to say, `Let's go,''' Perkins said. ''For a long time, I just didn't feel good enough to take steps. So for the last couple of weeks, I'm trying to move this thing along. I'm in a better place mentally than I had been because I've felt better.''
He still speaks with the caution of knowing that another setback could be right around the corner. The team holds an option on his contract for next season that could turn a $6.5 million salary into a $700,000 buyout, meaning his career could be coming to a close.
If he is able to return this month and finish strong, there is a perpetual market for left-handed relief.
Given how difficult this process has been for him, Perkins is not thinking that far ahead.
''If I get back and pitch and I don't want to play next year, I don't have to play next year,'' he said. ''If they don't want me to play next year, we'll get to that. But at least if I get back and pitch, I can leave because I want to leave.''
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