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.