Perkins fires scoreless 7th in healthy return

Perkins fires scoreless 7th in healthy return

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins closer Glen Perkins returned to action after missing three games with lower back spasms, tossing a scoreless seventh inning in Friday night's 3-0 win over the Astros.

Perkins, who first felt the back spasms while warming up prior to his appearance against the Orioles on Sunday, was eased back into the bullpen, as he pitched in the seventh inning for the first time since May 2, 2012. He fared well in his return, picking up two strikeouts and getting an infield popup.

"He's only pitched once in the last 10 games, so I talked to him before the game about trying to get him out there to see where we're at as far as how he was going to feel and what his stuff was going to be like," manager Paul Molitor said. "It worked out well to have a little lead and get him an inning, and he threw well."

Perkins threw a bullpen session on Thursday to test out his back, and said he was pleased with the way he felt during his outing on Friday. Perkins also missed five games with neck stiffness prior to his appearance on Sunday.

"I knew I would be all right, but it was just a matter if there was any rust and I felt about as good as possibly could've hoped," Perkins said. "I told [catcher] Kurt [Suzuki] after I was done that was about as loose as my arm had felt in two months."

Jepsen seals ninth save

Molitor said he didn't want to use Perkins as the closer until he proved he was healthy, so Molitor went with right-hander Kevin Jepsen, who picked up his fourth save with Minnesota since being acquired from the Rays at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Jepsen loaded the bases with two out in the ninth, but escaped the jam by getting Jose Altuve to fly out to center.

"They can't all be easy," Jepsen said with a smile. "But at the end of the day it's just about getting the outs."

Molitor said Perkins remains the club's closer and believes Perkins will be ready to take over those duties on Saturday. Jepsen isn't expected to be available after pitching in six of the last seven games.

"If it was proving I was healthy, I did that," Perkins said. "I'm sure they're going to ask me how I feel when I walk in here tomorrow. But when I pitched on Sunday, by the time I walked into the dugout, I couldn't breathe. But I feel fine right now so I don't expect any problems tomorrow."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.