Archive for the ‘MLB’ Category

Catching Up with Michael Cuddyer

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

When the Twins promoted Michael Cuddyer to their major league roster for the first time in September 2001, the team was closing out its’ first winning season in a decade, manager Tom Kelly was set to retire and an offseason filled with contraction rumors loomed on the horizon. In 2011, after decade that featured six division championships and ended in a 99-loss debacle, Cuddyer and the franchise that drafted him in 1997 parted ways.

The only player to witness the rise and fall of the Twins Central Division Dynasty in its’ entirety, Cuddyer is currently winding down the final season of a three-year contact in Colorado. A year after capturing the National League batting crown with a .331 average, the 35-year-old has been plagued by injuries in 2014, appearing in just 44 games so far for the Rockies.

While visiting Denver last week, I caught up with the 14-year veteran and Twins fan favorite for the first time in three years.

DZ: You’ve had, in some ways, a challenging year with the injuries and everything. As the year winds down here, how would you put a bow on it all?

CUDDYER: I think that’s a good word - challenging - is a fair word. Injuries, team success, things of that nature - it kind of is what it is, you have to roll with it, deal with it and go out there and play the best you can.

DZ: Now that you are back, how important is it for you personally to finish strong?

CUDDYER: It’s always better to play well when you get out there and get a chance to play. Whether you were injured during the year or not. When you are out on the field, it’s always good to get out there and try and have success.

DZ: Free agency is coming up here again, how much does that play on your mind?

CUDDYER: Not really that much. It’s a little different this time around. Things are not as important this time around as the first time you go through free agency. We’ll see what happens, I am not a fortune teller, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I don’t know where I’ll end up or how the offseason will transpire. All you can ask for is to be healthy going into the offseason.

DZ: You are 35 now, which is mature for an athlete, what’s easier for you about the game and what’s harder?

CUDDYER: I think nothing has really changed in that respect. The game hasn’t gotten any easier, but, at the same time, I don’t think things have gotten harder. I think you just go out there and try to continue to compete, you don’t really worry about how things progress - it’s not an issue. You just go out and play the game; if you are good enough to keep playing, you are good enough to keep playing.

DZ: You’ve got to know a lot more than you did 10 years ago, don’t you? The pitchers if nothing else.

CUDDYER: (laughs) If we are talking about a 10 year span, yeah - a lot is easier then. You know guys, you know the league more. If you go year to year, things don’t really change that much.

DZ: In Minnesota we always knew you were a good player, an All Star and everything up there, but I think everybody was a little surprised when you were contending for (and winning) the batting title last year; what was that experience like?

CUDDYER: I think that’s a combination of I got to know the National League, I matured a little more as a hitter. I think things just progressed and the fact that I started getting confidence. Any time you get confidence as a hitter, that’s a snow ball effect. Now I believe I should hit, maybe not .330, but I should go out there and have success when I get onto the baseball field. That’s something you gain as you mature and you continue to play, you gain that confidence and you gain that expectation of yourself.

DZ: That’s got to mean a lot to you too, you’ll always be in the history books; (NL) Batting Champion 2013: Michael Cuddyer.

CUDDYER: Yeah, it’s definitely something I am extremely proud of because it’s not something that happened overnight even though it looks like it going from a .275 career hitter to a batting champion, it looks like it did happen overnight. It’s something that was a long, steady progression that a lot of work has gone into and a lot of work goes into to sustain that.

DZ: When you came up the Twins you guys contended basically every year. You played meaningful games in September other than your last year there…and then the last couple of years here, not so much. Looking back on that did you almost take it for granted when you were younger?

CUDDYER: Yeah, I think so. I think when you are winning every year, year in and year out, you don’t realize how hard it is to win in this league. Four bad years now that I’ve had on the team side of things. You realize how hard it is and how many things have to go your way in order to have success in this league from the team aspect.

DZ: Let’s go back to the 2011 season a little bit. Obviously, you guys has so much success before that and the bottom just fell out. I think so many people were so surprised; could you in any way, shape or form sense that things weren’t the same going into it?

CUDDYER: I don’t think so because our team really wasn’t all that different from 2010 to 2011. I think we did lose a couple of spark plugs on that team: Punto, Guerrier, Crain; guys that were part of that core that we lost. Those guys were tough to replace and it may sound corny…but there is something to be said about having those types of players and those types of guys in clubhouse that make the team run.

DZ: I always thought that Mike Redmond…

CUDDYER: Mike Redmond is another one..

DZ: He kind of gave you guys a little edge…

CUDDYER: Yeah.

DZ: Back in Minnesota who do you keep in touch with - former Twins teammates?

CUDDYER: I kept in touch with Morny obviously, that’s how he came over here. That’s really pretty much it. I keep in touch with Mike Herman, some of the front office guys, some of the clubbies (clubhouse attendants) as well. I spent a lot of time with those guys the decade I was there. As far as players were concerned, Morny was pretty much the only guy.

DZ: The Metrodome is history now…what are your thoughts on that building?

CUDDYER: I loved it, I loved it. Obviously, it wasn’t the nicest place to play, people didn’t enjoy coming and watching games there very much, but it was home to me. It was my first big league home. It was home for a long time; I played more big league games in that stadium than any other stadium. It means a lot to me, I had a lot of special memories and I was sad to see it get torn down, albeit it needed to be (laughs).

See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:

August 31: Glen Perkins
July 22: Matt Guerrier
July 16: Maya Moore
July 9: Sam Fuld
July 4: Phil Hughes
June 11: Janel McCarville
May 2: Kurt Suzuki
April 26: Kyle Gibson
April 22: Jason Kubel

Twins announce new AA affiliate will be in Chatanooga

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The Chattanooga Lookouts are pleased to announce that the organization has signed a four-year player development contract with the Minnesota Twins. The partnership with the Twins marks the team’s first affiliation with an American League team since 1987 when the Lookouts were with the Seattle Mariners.”Although we had a longstanding successful tenure with the New Britain Rock Cats, the Twins organization is very excited to begin this partnership and compete in the Southern League,” said Minnesota Twins Executive Vice President and General Manager Terry Ryan. “We rely a great deal on our minor league affiliates and look forward to building a relationship with the Chattanooga Lookouts. This is an important time in our growth and player development and we are confident this will strengthen those efforts.”

From 1932 to 1959 the Lookouts were affiliated with the Washington Senators who went on to become the Minnesota Twins in 1961. Chattanooga won three league titles as a Senators affiliate including one under manager Cal Ermer. Ermer managed the Lookouts from 1952 to 1957 and went on to manage the Twins for part of the 1967 and all of the 1968 season.

Hall of Famer, and former Minnesota Twins’ great, Harmon Killebrew also has roots with the Lookouts. The 13-time All-Star spent two seasons with Chattanooga and hit a combined 46 home runs with the team.

“We are excited to partner with a team that has a deep history with the Chattanooga Lookouts,” said Lookouts President and General Manager Rich Mozingo. “The Minnesota Twins are an upstanding organization and present an incredible opportunity for the Lookouts and the City of Chattanooga.”

The Twins currently boast one of the top Minor League Farm Systems in all of baseball. According to MLB.com the Twins feature the number one prospect in all of Minor League Baseball, outfielder Byron Buxton. Along with Buxton, MLB.com has five other Twins’ prospects ranked in the top 100 including the eighth overall prospect Miguel Sano and Nick Gordon, the brother of former Lookouts’ infielder Dee Gordon. Prior to the 2014 season Baseball Prospectus ranked the Twins’ farm system as the best in all of baseball.

“Being able to pair some of baseball’s top talent with our affordable family entertainment is a can’t-miss opportunity and we are looking forward to being a partner with the Twins organization for years to come,” Mozingo said.

Twins announce 2015 schedule

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The Minnesota Twins today announced their preliminary regular season schedule for the 2015 season; the team’s 55th campaign in Twins Territory.The Twins will open the season on the road against the Detroit Tigers (April 6, 8 and 9) and the Chicago White Sox (April 10-12) before returning home for the Opening Series at Target Field against the Kansas City Royals (April 13, 15 and 16).

The Twins will play 20 interleague games in 2015, including a weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers (June 5-7), a “home and home” series against the St. Louis Cardinals (June 17 and 18 at Target Field) a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs (June 19-21) and a visit by the Pittsburgh Pirates (July 28 and 29).

Other home schedule highlights include a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox starting on Memorial Day (May 25-27) and a weekend series against the New York Yankees (July 24-26).

2-Time All Star Closer Glen Perkins Unfiltered

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

When the Twins started their season in April with modest expectations, all signs (literally, there were signs lining the streets of downtown Minneapolis), pointed to one date: July 15. Now that the All Star Game is history, many of the signs still remain around Target Field, but the excitement has waned.

The highlight of the All Star experience for Twins fans, of course, was Glen Perkins’ perfect 9th inning that preserved a 5-3 American League win. It was Perkins second selection to the Midsummer Classic, but his first appearance in the game.

The 31-year-old closer and I chatted about that big night, the Twins present and future, fantasy football and more during the last homestand.

DZ: It’s been (over) a month since the All Star Game, looking back on that, what stands out to you about the whole event?

PERKINS: Getting to participate in my hometown and my home stadium. It was an honor to be part of a game with the best players in baseball. I think I will be able to reflect on it a little more after the season is done. We’re still focused on trying to play as good of baseball as we can here. It was an unbelievable experience and it’s still - a month later - hard to believe I got to participate in it.

DZ: You’ve made a couple of All Star games and your profile has been raised a lot, do you get recognized around town more than maybe you did a couple of years ago?

PERKINS: (laughs) A little bit, but that’s been on a steady incline I guess since I starting pitching good and playing well for the team. That’s all part of it, I think. I just have to make sure I don’t do anything stupid. You never know who is watching.

DZ: This roster - even in the last month - has been under a lot of flux. What’s it like having all these new teammates and not really knowing….

PERKINS: It’s all part of it when you don’t play well and give (management) a reason to keep our team together, our team gets disbanded. It’s happened a few times and I guess we’ve kind of lost more guys this year than we have the past. I think it was expected and as we’ve struggled throughout the season, you are waiting for guys like Correia and Willingham and Kendrys and those guys who have gotten traded to get traded. It’s just a matter of time. It’s disappointing that we didn’t put ourselves in a better situation to stay together.

DZ: Have there been any young guys who have come up the past couple of years that you have kind of bonded with?

PERKINS: I think we are a pretty tight knit group, so you try to spend as much time with the new guys as the guys you have played with for a long time. You want to make everyone feel welcome and make everyone comfortable.

DZ: Anyone remind you of yourself; are you getting that old yet or not?

PERKINS: (laughs) I don’t think I am quite there yet.

DZ: I’ve heard you say that you are a lot more optimistic about the team’s direction this year; how long do you think it will be before the Twins can contend again?

PERKINS: Hopefully we’ll be a better team next year. We’ll see where we are at. I don’t know what the grand plan is, but as long, I guess, that we are a better team this year than we were last year. Hopefully we are a better team next year than we are this year. As long as we are moving in the right direction,  I am all right.

DZ: I know you and Joe Nathan keep in touch. He’s hit some rough spots this year, do you talk to him about that?

PERKINS: No, that’s a tough spot. I think we play him on this homestand, so I will talk him then…I’ll ask him how he’s feeling and if he is healthy. I am sure he’s out there trying as hard as he can and it’s not going well for him. That’s more frustrating that anything; I don’t think he needs someone asking him how he feels about it.

DZ: You mentioned last year that you hadn’t been to a Vikings game in the Metrodome, did you get to one?

PERKINS: No, never did.

DZ: You been down there at all?

PERKINS: I’ve driven by it a couple of times…it’s probably been a month or two now.

DZ: (The new stadium) is starting to come up, it’s starting to look like something.

PERKINS: It was still a hole last time I drove by it.

DZ: One last thing, I know you guys have a fantasy football league every year, did you guys have your draft?

PERKINS: We haven’t done it yet, it’s scheduled, I don’t know when it is.

DZ: Do you know where you are picking?

PERKINS: I am drafting Adrian Peterson.

DZ: You traded for him last year, right?

PERKINS: Yep, I’ll make sure I get him.

DZ: Who is the defending champ?

PERKINS: Casey Fien, I think, won it last year.

See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:

July 22: Matt Guerrier
July 9: Sam Fuld
July 4: Phil Hughes
May 2: Kurt Suzuki
April 26: Kyle Gibson
April 22: Jason Kubel

Twins 20 runs vs Tigers highest in MLB this year

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

The Twins piled up 20 runs on 20 hits Friday night in their 20-6 win over the 2nd place Detroit Tigers. The 20-run outburst was the most by any team in baseball this season. Here are a few other notes from Friday night’s game at Target Field:

TWINS NOTES:

· THE TWINS defeated the Tigers tonight, 20-6, it is the most runs by a team in a single game this season in all of baseball and the most for the Twins since May 21, 2009 at Chicago-AL…the nine runs in sixth inning tie a season-high, other being August 3 at Chicago-AL (8th inning)…the Twins are now 28-35 at home this season, 26-26 against AL Central opponents and 9-11 in the month of August…the Twins have hit 18 home runs in their last 12 games…they now have 25 home runs this month…the Twins (since 1961)/Senators (since 1901) franchise has hit 9,999 home runs, needing one to reach 10,000 and become the 16th franchise to ever reach that mark.

· TOMMY MILONE allowed five runs, three earned, on 10 hits in just 4.1 innings pitched…he allowed five consecutive hits before Anthony Swarzak relieved him in the fifth inning…the 10 hits allowed tie a career-high, last being September 3, 2012 vs. Los Angeles-AL.

· EDUARDO ESCOBAR (5-for-6) set career-high with five hits tonight, and a double shy of hitting for the cycle tonight (3 - 1B, 3B, HR)…he is hitting .312 (53-for-170) with 12 doubles, a triple, home run, 12 RBI and 10 walks in 52 home games this season…Escobar’s first home run hit at Target Field since June 20, 2013 vs. Chicago-AL (third total).

· TREVOR PLOUFFE (3-for-6) hit his 34th double of the season and 10th home run for his 45th and 46th extra-base hits, which is a new career high (44 done in 2012)…20 of his 34 doubles this season have come at home…Plouffe’s 34 doubles are tied for fourth all-time among Twins third basemen (Gary Gaetti, 1986).

· JOE MAUER (2-for-4) has hit safely in 21 of his last 23 games, hitting .349 (30-for-86) with nine doubles, two home runs and 19 RBI in that span…since coming off the DL August 11 he is hitting .333 (13-for-39) with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBI…it was fourth time this season with four RBI-or-more in a single game, last being June 26 at Los Angeles-AL (3).

· DANNY SANTANA (3-for-6) hit his sixth home run of the season in the second inning off Robbie Ray…he is now hitting .298 (67-for-225) with 13 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 27 RBI in 52 games from the leadoff spot…since August 8 is hitting .354 (23-for-65) with five extra-base hits in 14 games…he recorded four RBI-or-more for the third time this season, last being August 3 at Chicago-AL.

· JORDAN SCHAFER (2-for-3) reached base five consecutive times tonight (3 - BB, 2 - 1B).

· OSWALDO ARCIA (2-for-6) hit a RBI-double in the second inning giving him his 18th RBI and a two-run home run in the eighth inning giving him his 19th and 20th RBI in August…his 17 entering today was tied for fourth in all of baseball.