FORT MYERS — Minnesota Twins pitcher Glen Perkins was more than a little concerned with heading to Fort Myers this spring, and it had nothing to do with Major League hitters.
Perkins spent the first half of 2005 with the Fort Myers Miracle and didn't want to see much more of the Sunshine State.
"When I left last year it was like 100 degrees," the Minnesota native said. "I wasn't looking forward to coming back to Florida because that's what I remember about it."
It's a good thing Perkins got over his dislike for the furnace that is a Southwest Florida summer — not only is the spring climate more to his liking, but the left-hander's stock has been rising quickly.
Following a workout last week, former Minnesota manager Tom Kelly — a spring training instructor with the Twins — gave current manager Ron Gardenhire six broken bats to give to pitching coach Rick Anderson, courtesy of Perkins.
Perkins, the Twins' 2004 first-round draft pick and a former University of Minnesota All-American, followed that up by striking out three in two scorless innings against Cincinnati on Friday, one day after his 23rd birthday.
Not bad for a kid in his first big-league camp.
"He locates the ball very well," Gardenhire said. "He's very sure of himself, and he'll get plenty of opportunities to throw the baseball.
"Whether or not (general manager Terry Ryan) thinks he can help me out of my pen, I haven't asked him yet."
Gardenhire wants to head north with 11 pitchers, and, barring injuries, four of the six bullpen spots are spoken for, with closer Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain the team's late-inning specialists and Matt Guerrier throwing long relief.
That leaves two roles up for grabs this spring — a left-handed specialist and another long reliever. Among the contenders are journeyman lefties Darrell May and Dennys Reyes, as well as right-hander Willie Eyre. Either Eyre or Perkins will start Monday's game against the Pirates in Bradenton.
Though it seems unlikely that he will break camp with the Major League club, Perkins said he isn't paying much attention to anything other than the catcher's glove.
"I just want to go out there and throw strikes," Perkins said. "I'm not going to read the papers or what other people are saying. The only thing that matters is what (the coaches) say."
Veteran Mike Redmond caught Perkins on Friday and liked his fastball, a pitch Anderson described as "sneaky" with plenty of late movement.
Redmond said the best thing Perkins can do is not try to do too much.
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"I remember my first big-league camp, you want to impress everybody and prove that you're good enough to be there," Redmond said. "For me, when I catch a young guy, I try to get them to relax and enjoy it. The best way to impress guys is to not put a lot of pressure on yourself, just be yourself and enjoy it. Guys that do that usually have the most success.
"His stuff is there," Redmond added. "It just comes down to experience now."
RECAP: The Cleveland Indians put up four runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat a split-squad Twins team 7-3 Saturday afternoon at Hammond Stadium.
Former Miracle starter Adam Harben took the loss, allowing four runs, three earned, in 1Ò innings. Boof Bonser, a prospect the Twins are looking at to possibly begin the season as the fifth starter, pitched two scoreless innings.
Jason Kubel drilled a single for his first hit of the spring in the eighth and drove in his first run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Michael Cuddyer tied the game in the eighth with an RBI double.
In St. Petersburg, the Twins scored six times in the sixth inning to knock off the Devil Rays, 6-1. Scott Baker, another contender for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, threw 2Ò scoreless innings. Matt Garza, the Twins' top draft pick last June, pitched 1Ð scoreless innings.
TWIN BILLS: Saturday's game drew 6,694 fans to Hammond Stadium in the Indians' only visit to Southwest Florida this spring. The Indians have talked with Cape Coral about relocating their spring training home there. ... Bonser, acquired from San Francisco with Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan for A.J. Pierzynski, made his first career spring training start on Saturday. ... The Twins have agreed to terms with all 40 players on their 2006 roster. Minnesota announced deals Saturday with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Lew Ford, Baker, Crain, Liriano and Guerrier. ... Kyle Lohse makes his first spring start at 1:05 p.m. today against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield at Hammond Stadium. Tickets are sold out.