FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Glen Perkins was a starter his entire life, until a crowd in Minnesota's rotation pushed him to the bullpen for parts of two seasons. Back at the beginning of the game again, Perkins has rediscovered his rhythm.
The left-hander pitched two scoreless innings and the Twins beat Tim Wakefield and a Boston Red Sox split squad 5-2 on Wednesday night in their exhibition opener.Attendance was 7,849, a sellout at Hammond Stadium that is quite common when these teams play here. The slumping economy didn't affect demand on this night, with the lure for fans of escaping the cold and snow in Minnesota and New England. The weather was perfect, with a high temperature near 80 during the day and a cool breeze blowing once the sun disappeared shortly before the first pitch.Wakefield's knuckleball isn't always a welcome sight for hitters getting their swings into form, but the Twins didn't have much trouble. Mike Redmond and Alexi Casilla hit RBI singles sandwiched around a sacrifice fly by Jason Pridie in the three-run second.Still, Boston manager Terry Francona was pleased with Wakefield's outing."I don't think he threw the ball poorly," Francona said. "It was nice to see him out there getting his work in. Seven base runners is a lot, but we didn't have to go get him."Perkins went 12-4 in his first full major league season, though he faded late and opponents batted .301 against him. But the best part of his development wasn't statistical. It was mental."I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge of making starts in the big leagues and maintaining stamina throughout the regular season," Perkins said, adding on behalf of the entire young Twins rotation: "I'm not worried a bit about a sophomore slump."Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire has been pleased by Perkins' progress since some conflicts in the minors with some of the coaches."He needed to clean up his habits," Gardenhire said. "Just a young guy who didn't really have a plan yet. ... He was just stubborn. He could be lazy in his fundamentals, but it was also that line with Perk where it was just the way he did things. It's not that you're lazy. It's just that his mannerisms looked like he was."Perkins has worked closely with strength coach Perry Castellano to develop a conditioning routine."I think he's changed the way he's gone about his business," Gardenhire said.Behind the plate for Wakefield was Josh Bard, who has his second chance trying to catch the unpredictable knuckler. He struggled badly at the beginning of the 2006 season and was soon traded to San Diego, but he became a free agent in the fall and re-signed with Boston. Bard batted .202 with 16 RBIs last year for the Padres. He went 0-for-3 in the game, but handled Wakefield without trouble.Jeff Bailey hit an RBI single off Twins closer Joe Nathan in the fourth inning, and Jed Lowrie ripped an RBI double off Jason Jones in the sixth, but that was as close as the Red Sox got. Jeff Christy hit a two-run single for the Twins in the eighth.This marked the first of five spring training games between these American League teams that have trained in the same southwest Florida city for the past 17 years. The other Red Sox split squad beat Boston College 7-1 earlier in the day behind two perfect innings by Josh Beckett.