Posted at 8:47 AM on July 19, 2005
by David Zingler
Through the first half of this season, no player on the Twins roster was the object of more scorn and ridicule than Michael Cuddyer. Whether it was the fans, the media or even the manager, everybody seemed to be piling on the opening day third baseman.
“It’s baseball. It’s a game,” Cuddyer responded when asked about enduring the negativity. “You can’t let this game affect your life personally. Although it is our job, our profession, and is very important to our lives, it’s just a game too.”
With the free agent departure of incumbent Corey Koskie, the hot corner was basically handed to the 26-year-old former first round pick. Throughout the seasons’ first three months however, Cuddyer’s defense and hitting were suspect. The general consensus is that he was pressing -- putting too much pressure on himself.
He however, downplays such talk, “I’ve never had a good April in my career, even in the minor leagues,” Cuddyer, who hit .205/.275/.288 this April, explained. “This year was no exception, I got off to a rough start, but May (.310/.365/.437) and June (.250/.360/.417) were fine. I had two solid months-- and here we are.”
Unfortunately for him, the Twins don’t really see it that way. When Cuddyer went on the Disabled List on July 3 with a bruised hand, his playing time had already been cut (3 DNPs the previous week). Now that he has returned, there has been no talk of reinserting him at third base on a regular basis. Nick Punto and Luis Rodriguez are splitting time there for now.
Cuddyer meanwhile, made his first start of the season at first base last night. A spot he may see more time at when the Twins face left-handers. There had been talk of moving him back to second base, where he spent much of the second half of the 2004 season, but the Bret Boone experiment put an end to that.
With his versatility, it remains likely the Virginia native will be relegated to the “super-utility” role that he filled most of last season. He however, admits to being as much in the dark as the rest of us, “I don’t know,” Cuddyer responded when asked about his role. “I have no idea – we’ll see.”
Before you completely write off Cuddyer, who was once the organization’s top prospect, keep in mind that he began his minor league career fairly slowly and has just over 800 major league at-bats under his belt. And many of those have occurred sporadically over the past five seasons.
So far Cuddyer has been successful at maintaining his happy-go-lucky demeanor, but even he admits it hasn’t always been easy. “In anything you do,” he commented,“you are going to go through bad times when things aren’t going well, baseball is no exception. Although it is a great game, you still get tired, you still get mad and frustrated sometimes.”
After a forgettable first half, Cuddyer says he is ready for a fresh start. “I have always done well in the second half,” he pointed out. “I’ve always done well in August and September. For the past three years, I’ve always been in the line-up going into the playoffs. So, we’ll see what happens.”
I'm glad he has a level head and clear sense of himself, even if his manager can't recognize progress when he sees it.