Kubel on Clutch Hitting, Beating the Yanks & More


The M&M boys get the headlines, sell jerseys and make eight figures annually, but if there are runners on base and the game is on the line, Jason Kubel is the Twin you want with the bat in his hands.

It began on June 13, 2006 when his 12th inning grand slam upended the Red Sox and kick started the floundering Twins toward a division title. Since then, the soft-spoken slugger has hit five more grand slams culminating with his bases loaded four bagger off Mariano Rivera on May 16 that finally ended the Twins Yankee Stadium hex.

No matter how many big hits Kubel gets or how many millions he banks however, it will never go to his head. The humble veteran took some time out to chat earlier in the week.

DZ: You’ve had some really big games this year and some really big hits, but your numbers aren’t probably overall all where you would like – what’s your take on the season so far?

KUBEL: I just haven’t been consistent. I’ve had a couple of big games and left it at that. I haven’t done much other than that. I am trying to keep the same feeling and hopefully have some more good at-bats.

DZ: Are pitchers approaching you differently this year, have you noticed any changes like that?

KUBEL: I do have a lot more walks than usually would have this time of year. I am seeing a lot more of basically everything. (pauses) It’s been a little different, but I have to be able to hit those pitches too.

DZ: Your average isn’t as high as you’d like, but your power numbers are pretty decent still. You are on pace to drive in around 100 runs. How do you explain that difference?

KUBEL: When there are guys on base I try to do whatever it takes to get them in or get them over. I am not too worried about the batting average as long as I keep driving in runs and scoring runs when I do get on base.

DZ: You’ve had some big hits this year, some really clutch hits – you seem to be able to pick your spots pretty well. When you know it is a big point in the game, do you focus in more? Is there any difference at all that makes you have so much success in the clutch?

KUBEL: No, I try to keep the same mindset throughout the game. I don’t know – I like to be in those situations where – not necessarily where the game depends on it, but where it could be a big moment for us – get us back in the game or whatever. I like to be in those spots and I’ve been able to get a couple hits this year and that also helps with that – getting a little more confidence in those situations.

DZ: I think the one hit this year – if you don’t do anything else and hopefully you will- (everyone will remember) will be the grand slam you hit off Mariano Rivera. Obviously you know, having been on the team all these years, how tough it’s been to beat those guys lately. How good did it feel running around those bases?

KUBEL: It felt great. It felt just about as good as our last game here against them – I hit two homers that game too. It’s a good feeling to do that, but it’s a good feeling to do that not just against the Yankees, but any team we’ve struggled against in the past.

DZ: When you lose to (the Yankees) in so many close games, is there any way to explain that? Do you just kind of feel like that if there’s a break in the game it’s just not going to go your way?

KUBEL: It’s kind of how it felt, yeah, but then we got that break – the grand slam – and the last game with a couple of homers. So, we got some breaks in those games and we won those games, so that was pretty cool.

DZ: You got a two year contract going into last year, what is your status heading into next year?

KUBEL: As of right now, I am not signed for anything for next year, so we’ll see what happens…I haven’t really thought about it much.

DZ: Are you free agency eligible after this year?

KUBEL: No, I’ve got options – team options. It’s up to them….Next year would be my first free agent year….’05 was my first full year.

DZ: Wasn’t that the year you missed with the (knee) injury?

KUBEL: Yeah, but I was on the big league roster all year.

DZ: So, that counts (toward your service time)?

KUBEL: Yeah.

DZ: A couple of more things. You played in the outfield a lot during the last road trip, with the unfortunate situation with Cuddyer. Was that kind of fun for you?

KUBEL: Yeah, I feel good out there. If I play out there a lot, I feel real comfortable with it. If I am not out there for a while, then the first couple of innings back I’ll feel a little nervous. Once I am out there, it’s fun.

DZ: Is that something you spend a lot of time on – your fielding – even though you don’t get as many chances as you’d like to get out there?

KUBEL: Yeah, everyday in BP I am out there shagging balls, so I get to work on it.

DZ: How about in the offseason?

KUBEL: I don’t get too much time in the outfield. I don’t like – the fields aren’t major league quality fields – I don’t want to hurt myself (laughs) before I get down to Florida. I do get a little bit in here and there when I feel agile (laughs), I’ll run through some obstacles out there.

DZ: It seems like the ball doesn’t carry to right field here very well. Do you have any theory on that at all?

KUBEL: It doesn’t carry (well) in the gaps, but it carries down the line. If you hit it and you know you hit it good, it’s going to get out.

DZ: Have you hit any balls where you thought they were gone and they stayed in the park?

KUBEL: There have been a couple to leftfield. There have been a couple of balls I hit – line drives to right center off that screen (out of town scoreboard) that could be homers anywhere else too – probably every other park but here. It’s tough.

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

June 9: Drew Butera
May 11: Denard Span
April 25: Justin Morneau
April 22: Alex Burnett
April 21: Mike Redmond
April 16: J.J. Hardy

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