Posted at 2:41 PM on August 1, 2008
by David Zingler
Since joining the Twins in 2004, Nick Punto has been through a lot. He's seen extensive action at second base, third base and shortstop, played a little centerfield, been a fan favorite and whipping boy and made several stops on the Disabled List.
Through it all, the hardnosed infielder has persevered and earned the respect of his teammates and opponents. The 30-year-old took some time out for a quick Q&A before Wednesday's game:
DZ: You've been hitting the ball pretty well - other than the injuries you've had, you have to be pretty happy with the way things are going.
PUNTO: Yeah. You never want to be injured, but when I've had a chance to be out on the field - which hasn't been much - I've been playing well.
DZ: What has been the difference with the bat between this year and last year?
PUNTO: I think it's just a matter of finding my swing and knowing it and working on repetitions with just that swing and not changing things up. When you get into a little bit of a slide, you tend to change things up and before you know it, you don't remember where you started. It's real important to just find a foundation and keep it.
I've tinkered (with my swing) in the past, but I am going to stay consistent with the swing I have. If it works, it works and if it doesn't, it doesn't but I am going to stay with it. You are going to have your slides, but hopefully they are not too long.
DZ: Is (the swing) similar to what you were doing in '06?
PUNTO: It's similar, it's definitely similar - I am just trying to put the ball in play more often.
DZ: When you go down on a rehab assignment, what's it like going back down to the minor leagues?
PUNTO: It's fun. It's one of those things - you never want to be down there, but when you are down there you make the best of it. You get to see the young kids, the passion they have for the game and how hard they work to try to get to the big league level I am at. It's fun to watch them - the way they are all ears when I am talking to them.
DZ: How do they react to you?
PUNTO: Sometimes they are a little nervous, but you get them after the game - sitting around, asking a lot of questions. It's just fun to talk some ball.
DZ: It is kind of strange taking someone else's job for a day or two?
PUNTO: Yeah. The shortstop they had down there in A-ball when I went down there was playing really well and had to take a three-day break. You never want to see that, but I got a chance to talk to him and we got to talk some baseball and sometimes that's better than actually being out on the field.
DZ: Right now you are playing second base primarily, but that could change at a moment's notice, is it pretty much second nature for you now to jump around and play anywhere on the infield.
PUNTO: That's the good thing about coming up as a utility guy like I did with Philadelphia. Their infield positions were pretty much locked down with Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Scott Rolen, so I had to fill that role as a utility guy. It's definitely paid dividends here in Minnesota because I don't know where I am going to be - it could be second, third or short. I feel just as comfortable at every one of those positions. It really doesn't matter.
DZ: You seem to have a really good relationship with Ron Gardenhire, he's always stuck with you and stuck up for you when things weren't going the greatest. Do you think you have a bond with him because he was a utility guy too?
PUNTO: Yeah. He is the ultimate player's manager. He knows what it is like to struggle and he knows when to give you a pat on the butt and tell you to keep going. He always has the right thing to say. Five years is a long time to be with any manager and we've had a great relationship. He is by far the best player's manager in the game.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
July 31st: Justin Morneau
July 30th: Scott Baker
June 30th: Brian Bass
June 27th: Brian Buscher
June 18th: Matt Macri
June 6th: Craig Breslow
June 4th: Michael Cuddyer
May 25th: Nick Punto & Mike Redmond
May 20th: Justin Morneau
May 1st: Nick Blackburn
April 29th: Brendan Harris
April 20th: Jason Kubel
April 17th: Denard Span
April 2nd: Matt Tolbert