Fri 28 Aug 2009
The Twins go as Nick Punto goes. No, that is not a typo. In 2006 the team finished 96-66 and won the AL Central, in 2008 the Twins went 89-74 and finished a game out of the division lead. Punto hit .290 and .284 in those seasons. In 2007 Punto hit .210 and so far in 2009, he’s at .209. The squad was 79-83 in ’07 and this year they are 63-64.
I asked the 31-year-old infielder about that oddity and few other things earlier this week.
DZ: You guys have been on a little bit of a hot streak and gotten back into the race, how much different has the mood (in the clubhouse) been lately?
PUNTO: I think the attitude in this clubhouse has pretty much been good all year and when you do get on a little run and start to win some games it’s always a lot more fun in the clubhouse, but I feel like we’ve been pretty up-beat all season long. We got a little momentum here, we’re at home and hopefully we can keep this going.
DZ: How about you personally? Obviously – with the bat anyway – things haven’t gone the way you would have liked.
PUNTO: I am hanging in there. It hasn’t been a very good year for me personally. I continue to work everyday and try to get better and when I get back in there, try to stay in the line-up.
DZ: When you look at your offensive numbers, it seems like in the even numbered years – ’06 and ’08 – you’ve done really well, but in the odd numbered years – ’07 and ’09 – (you’ve struggled). Is there any reason for that?
PUNTO: It’s just a weird coincidence (pauses); a weird coincidence.
DZ: Getting the (2-year, $8.5 million) contract (this off-season), getting the peace-of-mind financially – do you put a lot of pressure on yourself because of that?
PUNTO: I think I put a ton of pressure on myself on a daily basis regardless of anything. When I am not playing well it wouldn’t matter how much money I am making, I’d be just as upset. That really doesn’t matter; I have to just continue to try to get better.
DZ: Going back to the beginning of the season, you played for team Italy in the WBC (World Baseball Championship). How did that come about?
PUNTO: They contacted me back in ’06 and I was about to play back then (but) I knew I was about to come in and compete for a starting job with the Twins (so) it wasn’t something that was in my best interest. I thought if I ever got another chance I would definitely want to do it. It was a blast, I am glad I did.
DZ: Did you end up playing against any or your (Twins) teammates?
PUNTO: Yeah, Morneau, we beat Morneau. We beat Canada in Game 2 and sent them packing. That was fun for me personally, just to have bragging rights over Morneau.
DZ: Did you do any trash talking after that?
PUNTO: You know what, he was a little bitter. I know when we got back to spring training after the whole WBC was over, guys were ragging him for awhile and he was taking it pretty personal, so I kind of stayed away.
DZ: He’s a lot bigger than you right?
PUNTO: Yeah (laughs).
DZ: Obviously you guys want to make the playoffs this year, but heading into next year are you going to try to get a fresh start and win the shortstop job?
PUNTO: Yeah, definitely. I feel like regardless of what happens this year I am going to come in here with the attitude that I am starting shortstop until they tell me otherwise.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players:
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