MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins reliever Anthony Swarzak has been a workhorse this season, but even after extended innings, the right-hander doesn't take long to recover.
With 52 2/3 innings in 23 appearances entering Sunday, Swarzak has had six outings of three or more innings -- throwing four frames on three occasions. He's given up 18 runs on 52 hits for a 3.08 ERA, but Swarzak has embodied the ideal of a rubber arm, never timid to let the club know he's ready to go any given day.
"He'll tell you he wants to throw 100 [pitches]," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He would like to start and that's a good thing. You should always want more. He'll throw and he'll tell you a day later, 'I'm good, if you need me, I'm good.' Definitely one of the horses out there that gets it done. And he's ate up a lot of big innings for us."
Swarzak served as a starter for the Twins in 2009, part-time in 2011 and starting the 2012 season before permanently moving to the bullpen. While Swarzak has grown into his relief role, he's itching to get back into a starting job -- a role Gardenhire wouldn't hesitate to put him in.
"He's really grown as a pitcher," Gardenhire said. "His fastball, his breaking ball has gotten better. ... He has a mix [of pitches] that, who knows, he could be a starter. He could definitely be a starter. He's so valuable where he's at right now, but if we had issues and we don't like our other choices, I would not be afraid to put him out there in the starting rotation."
Twins grant Perkins' extra work request
MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-hander Glen Perkins asked for more time on the mound and his wishes were fulfilled. The Twins closer preserved a 6-2 win over the Royals on Saturday in a non-save situation.
Perkins has seen limited action of late with only three appearances in the Twins' last six games -- two were save situations. But with a three-day break between his save at Cleveland last Sunday and his most recent save in Thursday's 3-1 win over the Royals, Perkins approached both manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson about getting in more work.
"He basically said he needs to pitch more," Gardenhire said. "He needs more times on the mound. You saw his save the other night and that's just because he's not pitching enough right now. We need to get him into the game."
In his save on Thursday -- No. 20 -- Perkins issued a walk and gave up a two-out double, putting the potential tying run on second, before inducing Miguel Tejada's grounder to end the threat.
With a four-run lead heading into the ninth inning on Saturday, Gardenhire and Anderson decided to give Perkins the ball in the final frame to get him the extra work he asked for.
"The kid wants to pitch more and get on the mound," Gardenhire said. "To get his pitches and have a better feel for them. I understand."
Morneau passes Puckett on Twins' homer list
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a two-run dinger in the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon's 9-8 loss to the Royals, Justin Morneau moved into fifth place on the Twins' all-time home run list.
Morneau, with career homer No. 208, passed Kirby Puckett's total of 207.
"Anytime you get mentioned in the company of a Hall of Famer and one of the most important players in the organization, it's pretty humbling," Morneau said. "It's pretty cool and it's kind of been a long time coming. It's a bit unfortunate it didn't come in a win, but hopefully it's a sign of good things to come."
Morneau's blast was only his fourth of the season -- odd considering he was once a home run machine for the Twins.
"If it was easy to hit home runs everybody would do it," Morneau said. "It's one of those things you can work on. You can try and get your swing the way you want it and I think it's felt a lot better the last few days. It's one of those things if you can figure it out, then you're a genius and you're Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis."
Twins making mark in AL Central standings
MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Twins still reside just below .500 with a 36-41 record heading into Sunday's game against the Royals, Minnesota did own the best record in the previous 30 games in the American League Central.
With a 17-13 in that span, the Twins have started to gain some ground in the division standings, sitting only six games behind first-place Detroit. Minnesota's 30-day record tops Kansas City and Cleveland -- each at 16-14 -- Detroit (14-16) and Chicago (8-22).
"I think other than the 10-game losing streak -- you can't throw it out, we did it, we earned it -- if you throw that out, it would look a little bit different right now," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've hung in there pretty good. Over the last 30 or something games, I think our record is OK. It's pretty decent."
Gardenhire also noted the importance of winning at home, a task they've started to accomplish with a 12-5 record in their last 17 at Target Field prior to Sunday. And while the Twins search for consistency, Gardenhire feels the team is making strides, particularly from recent years.
"We just had the one bad spell and if we could stay away from stuff like that and become a little more consistent -- we're a fun team to watch," Gardenhire said. "It's fun for me. I think the fans like it a little bit better than they have the last couple of years. We've got some issues, absolutely. We've got things we're not clicking -- pitching and hitting together. We've got some guys we really need to get swinging better, but it's actually a pretty fun group with some young kids mixed in, which makes it pretty interesting for going on down the road."
• Josh Willingham wasn't in the lineup again on Sunday, earning another day of rest while nursing his sore knee. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning, delivering a game-tying ground-rule double in the Twins' 9-8 loss to the Royals.
• Infielder Brian Dozier did not start on Sunday as utility man Eduardo Escobar began the series finale at second base. Gardenhire noted that Escobar needs to get some playing time and Dozier was 0-for-7 previously against Royals starter Ervin Santana. Dozier entered as a pinch-runner for Willingham in the seventh and remained in the game at second base for Escobar, who was lifted for pinch-hitter Willingham.
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.