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The Bleacher Bums: September 18, 2007 Archive

Kubel on his Injury, Comeback & Strong Finish

Posted at 5:27 PM on September 18, 2007 by David Zingler

In 2004, Jason Kubel hit .352 with 22 homeruns and 100 RBI in minor league stops at New Britian and Rochester. Then, in a 23-game stint with the Twins, he hit .300. Kubel was one of the top hitting prospects in baseball and looked ready to join Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer to form an exciting young trio (maybe the Triple J’s or Minnesota Triplets?).

While playing in the Arizona Fall League that October however, Kubel tore the anterior and posterior ligaments in his left knee. His 2005 season was lost and since then, he’s shown occasional flashes of his old form. That could be changing – the 25-year-old hit .364/.438/.509 in August and is having a solid September.

ME: You’ve had and up-and-down year, but are finishing strong – what’s been the difference?

KUBEL: The last two months, I’ve just felt good—confident...I have been seeing the ball better. Just doing that helps a lot with confidence and everything. When you have confidence, you are not stressing and worrying.

ME: Is the mental side (of hitting) the biggest thing for any major league hitter?

KUBEL: I would say so. You are up here for reason – your ability is there, you just need to keep your mind right.

ME: Going into the off-season, is staying consistent going to be your focus?

KUBEL: Even if I don’t get a hit for the rest of the year, I feel like I’ve finished pretty strongly – the way I came back the last couple of months and how I feel about myself. Just to have that going into next year – knowing I can still do it.

ME: Going back to your injury a couple of years ago – the physical recovery is one thing, but how about the mental side of it?

KUBEL: I feel like I’ve got that back the last couple of months and that’s a good feeling. That’s why finishing this way is going to help a lot going into next year.

ME: Is there anything positive that you’ve taken away from that injury?

KUBEL: Just knowing that I can come back from something like that and still do it...I had a whole year off and made the team out of spring training...I was up here for almost the whole year.

ME: And you didn’t get consistent at-bats last year.

KUBEL: There was a point when I was doing well last year and then the other knee starting giving out. Just to be playing last year and be up here competing against major league players was a huge advantage.

ME: Do you feel like you are solidifying your role on the team?

KUBEL: I think so...I haven’t missed any games because of my knees this year – (only) a couple of games and that was something that happened during the game and only took a couple of days to get over. To be able to play through it and have success and get better makes me feel stronger.

ME: What are your off-season plans?

KUBEL: We’re having a baby boy (due in December), so we’ll have to get ready for that. It’s our first baby, so we’ll have lots of stuff to do.

ME: What our your thoughts on Terry Ryan?

KUBEL: The first time I ever met him was the GCL (Gulf Coast League – rookie ball) and he knew everything about me, pretty much. It impressed me – he knew about guys I played with in high school. I like him a lot; he’s a great guy. He’s not leaving; he’ll still be around. He might even be with us more now.

ME: Is it important for this team to finish with a winning record?

KUBEL: We would like to get over .500, but if it doesn’t happen (we want to play well)...that’s what we are shooting for – to get over .500.

ME: I imagine your goal for next season will be to come in here and take over the left field spot.

KUBEL: Yeah, that’s the plan.

Punto starting at second in '08?

Posted at 7:58 PM on September 18, 2007 by Chris Dall (1 Comments)

Anyone catch the item in today's Star Tribune about Nick Punto having the edge over Alexi Casilla for the second base job next year?

Whaa??

Yes indeed, it's a bit of surprise, given Punto's atrocius offensive stats this year, which have already been discussed in great detail on this blog. Granted, Casilla has been shaky in the field and not so great at the plate, but it's still a bit of a shock to see Ron Gardenhire letting a .200 hitter know the job is his to lose.

My guess is that this is Gardenhire's way of both boosting Punto's confidence and lighting a fire underneath Casilla, because it's hard to believe he's already given up on a guy who, if we're to understand the Castillo trade, was the second baseman in waiting. I wonder if he would have made these comments if Ryan was still going to be the GM next year?

But Gardy also seems to be one of those managers who has "his guys," players that he likes and trusts and will give a lot of rope to (a style that can earn the loyalty of players and the wrath of fans). Punto didn't seem to be one of those players a few years ago, when he couldn't stay on the field, but clearly Gardenhire has come to appreciate his defense and his hustle.

What's most unsettling about the article is the suggestion that moving Punto to second would enable the Twins to bring in a new third baseman in the offseason. One would hope that the Twins would be searching for a new third baseman even if they didn't have a place to move Punto. That statement says tons about the state of the Twins.

Despite this year, I like Punto. He's a team player. But I think, if anything, this year has exposed the fact that he's better suited to a utility role, which will allow the Twins to get the most of his ability to play several positions and his solid defense. It would help if he could learn to lay down a bunt, too.

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