by John Ring
This is a tale of two pitchers, who are both on the roster of the Swing of the Quad Cities.
Aside from that, these pitchers are infinitely different. Aside from being lefties, the fact that they pitch for the Minnesota Twins Class A affiliate is just about the only thing they have in common.
Glen Perkins was the first draft pick for the Twins last June. Hes lefthanded, comes from Minnesota and hopes to play at some point for his favorite boyhood team in his home state. Perkins is barely 5-foot-11 "Im not an imposing guy," he said last week at John ODonnell Stadium. but hes a smart pitcher that mixes up his pitches, keeps hitters off balance and throws strikes. Perkins has an uncanny recall for virtually everything when it comes to his performances on the mound. "My curve wasnt working one night in the Appie League [Appalachian league] so I threw 25 changeups out of the 80 pitches I threw that night."
Justin Jones is physically imposing. Hes 6-feet-4 and, at 60 6" away, is intimidating to a hitter . Maybe intimidating is too kind. Hed scare the hell out of you at the plate. He was a Midwest League All-Star last season for Lansing. Jones was drafted by the Cubs in the 2nd round in the 2002 draft but will become a part of baseball folk lore as being involved in the biggest trade so far of the 2004 baseball season. The Cubs sent him to Minnesota as part of the Nomar Garciaparra deal. The trade itself was another bump in the road of a very rocky year for Justin. The 2004 season has been a nightmare of him. He had shoulder tendentious and an elbow problem during the spring. Justin just wants to be healthy and get back on the fast track. "Its been a long season," said Jones. "Ive definitely had my share of ups and downs."
In a perfect world, Perkins and Jones will form the heart of the Twins pitching rotation in two or three years. But, as we all know, baseball isnt perfect.
The Minnesota Phenom
He came out of the training room after a workout, the day after throwing four shutout innings against Beloit in a Midwest League.
Hes Number One, the top draft pick of the Twins. He started off at Elizabethton where he started three games, had a 1-0 record with a 2.25 ERA and fanned 22 hitters in just 12 innings of work. The Twins then promoted him to the Quad Cities.
"My goal was to get here by August 1st," said lefthanded pitcher Glen Perkins. "I got here twelve days early."
He doesnt look like a number one pick. Glen Perkins isnt built like Wood or Clemons; he isnt physically intimidating from the mound. But what he lacks in size me makes up for with intelligence and confidence.
"Im not a power pitcher at all," said Perkins, "but Ive got 13 strikeouts in my first 13 innings here. I hit my spots, keep hitters off balance, throw strikes and use an assortment of pitches. I try not to throw it past guys. I can throw hard and throw hard consistently but thats not what got me here."
Perkins and the Twins are a perfect match. Hes a native of Minnesota, graduated from Stillwell High School redshirted at the University of Minnesota his first year and then dominated the Big 10 last season. Perkins was 9-2 with a 2.83 ERA and had 113 strikeouts in 111 innings of work. In Big10 play, Glen was a perfect 7-0 and he was the 2004 Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. He finished his Gopher career with a 19-5 record and 230 strikeouts.
"I had some good talks with the Twins the night before the draft and I knew they were looking at me. It came down to them, Oakland or the Chicago White Sox. But I was a big fan of the Twins growing up. I liked Frank Viola a lot because he was lefthanded like me. I was a fan of Kent Hrbek and Jeff Riorden. Its a dream come true to play in this organization for me and maybe down the road playing at home. But theres no extra pressure because the Twins picked me, the pressure comes from being drafted in the first round. Not a lot of guys make it to the major leagues. But you get a chance and you go out there and give it your all."
Perkins took his first professional loss two weeks ago against the Burlington Bees when QC lost 2-1. "I just caught some bad breaks. I gave up two runs in six innings and we just didnt score."
The Swing lefty also knows about Galesburgs Jeremy Pickrel, who he played with earlier this year. "The big guy," said Glen when asked about Pickrel. "Hes a good player."
So is Perkins. After limiting South Bend to just one earned run in 5 and 2/3 innings of work, the lefthander has a 1-1 record and a 1.40 ERA in four starts with the Quad Cities.
Its been smooth sailing for Glen Perkins so far. His next goal?
"Fort Myers next year, he says with a grin.
Dont bet against him.
Justins Long Season
2004 will be a year that Justin Jones will want to just forget about.
Jones was on the fast track for the major leagues before that. A prized prospect for the Chicago Cubs and a 2nd round draft pick in 2002, Justin sailed through the Midwest League last season with Lansing, the Cubs Class A affiliate. His record was just 3-5 but Jones had a 2.28 earned run average, allowing just 56 hits in 71 innings of work.
Justin no-hit Dayton for 7 innings last summer. He also struck out 87 hitters and walked just 32. Justin was named to the All-Star team and was a big part in the Lugnuts winning the Midwest League championship.
The 19-year old lefthander was rated the second best prospect in the Cubs farm system.
Then he developed tendentious in the shoulder. After that, his elbow became sore in spring training. The Cubs left him in Arizona to rehab and develop back his arm strength when Jones learned that he was part of the biggest baseball trade completed so far this season.
In a four-team deal, the Cubs acquired shortstop-savior Nomar Garciaparra from Boston but in the process, traded Jones to the Twins, who then assigned him to their Quad Cities Class A team in the Quad Cities.
"It was shocking and it reminds you that this is a business but Im happy about all this," said Jones. "This open a lot of doors for me. Ive learned a lot of things about the Twins organization in the last few days and everything is positive. I still dont know all the details about the trade but its an honor to be involved with such big names."
After he found out about the trade, Jones flew back to his home in Virginia City (Virginia) before reporting to the QC. "I got here about three or four in the morning last Monday. I was running on adrenaline all day, being part of a new team and a new organization. The Twins wanted me and Im happy to be here."
One of the first things Justin noticed was the $13 million renovation of John ODonnell Stadium. "A big difference," the Swing pitcher said. "You couldnt ask for anything more as a baseball player."
Jones has been limited to a 75-pitch limit all season long, something he doesnt see changing for the rest of the year. "This has been a year of adversity but I want to finish strong. I need to get back on the right track."
Justin had a rocky start for the Quad Cities. In his debut last Friday night, he pitched just 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs in a 6-0 loss to South Bend. He walked one and struck out three.
The swing lefty still has three weeks to salvage part of the season. Baseball fortunes change day to day. Slumps com e and go. But for Justin, being healthy is the big thing. The numbers prove it.