Perez to begin season pitching out of 'pen

March 19th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- expects to begin the season out of the Twins' bullpen before joining the starting rotation in the middle of April, he told reporters following his 70-pitch simulated game on Tuesday afternoon.

"If that's the plan that we have for the first two weeks, we have to do it, because we don't have any days where I can go, and I want to pitch now," Perez said. "I've got guys in front of me, and they've got to do their jobs as players, and I'll be there to do my job, too."

Manager Rocco Baldelli declined to announce his full pitching plans for the start of the regular season on Tuesday, but because the Twins are scheduled for five off-days within the first 15 days of the season, it has long been anticipated that Minnesota could open the season with a four-man rotation.

"To actually lay out our pitching going forward, especially with our schedule and potential weather issues, I don't think we need to probably announce any of that at this point," Baldelli said. "We feel pretty good about where we sit but we're going to wait a little longer to go public."

The Twins could potentially pitch four starters on at least regular rest until April 16, and , , and have all been touted as starters throughout the offseason. Perez said that he expects to "follow" starters into games early in the year.

Then with the Rangers, Perez primarily pitched out of the bullpen for the final month of the 2018 season, recording a 2.45 ERA in seven relief appearances after posting a 6.95 ERA in 13 starts. He doesn’t think that relief experience would make the transition this season any easier, as he hopes to keep the mentality of a starter during his temporary role pitching in relief.

"I'm not going to say it's going to be easy, because I have to stay focused like a starter," Perez said. "I'm going to do my routine, because that's going to be my spot this year, as a starter. I'm not going to take anything easy."

The 27-year-old left-hander cited the opportunity to be a starter in Minnesota as a motivating factor for signing a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Twins during the offseason. He’s worked with pitching coach Wes Johnson to fix his mechanics and add velocity to his fastball. He has also added a new cutter to his arsenal this spring.

Perez had originally been scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., but threw a simulated game at the Twins' facility after the contest was rained out. He expects to make one final spring appearance on Sunday when the Twins host the Yankees in Fort Myers.

He said that he used the simulated game to practice facing hitters from the Cleveland Indians. The Twins host Cleveland for a three-game series to start the regular season.

Twins announce Opening Day plans
Longtime Twins first baseman will throw the ceremonial first pitch, and Minneapolis songwriter and performer Har Mar Superstar will perform the national anthem as part of Opening Day festivities next Thursday, March 28, the Twins announced Tuesday.

Prior to the 3:10 p.m. CT first pitch against the Indians, Twins legends Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Kent Hrbek will open their namesake gates at Target Field, while family members of the late Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett will open Gate 3 and Gate 34 with the help of retired manager Tom Kelly.

The day-long festivities will begin at 6 a.m. CT, when the Twins will begin serving breakfast along 7th Street, adjacent to the ballpark, and the pregame ceremony will include fireworks and a flyover from F-16 aircraft from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing.

Up next
The rain in Fort Myers is expected to stop before the Pirates arrive on Wednesday for a 12:05 p.m. CT contest against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, with right-hander Michael Pineda expected to start against Pittsburgh's Joe Musgrove. Pineda allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings in his start last Friday but struck out four, his highest total of the spring.