Q&A with Twins Infielder Nick Punto


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punto10-mm.jpg

If you mention the name “Nick Punto” around any serious Twins fan, you’re sure to get a reaction. Many will be bemoan his offensive struggles and question manager Ron Gardenhire’s seemingly endless devotion to him, while others with will admire the plucky infielder’s hustle and likeable personality.

When you set aside the several attempts the Twins have made to transform Punto in an everyday player - a third baseman in 2007 and shortstop in ‘09, among others - you see one of the best utility infielders in all of baseball and while the utility role may not be a glamorous position, it is an essential one to any successful team.

The 32-year-old, 9-year veteran took some time to chat with me last week:

DZ: You had a pretty got month at the plate in June - hit .295 - how did you get it going?

PUNTO: Just being more consistent at the plate - hits falling in - it was a good month for me.

DZ: It’s seems like lately you’ve been really good about taking a lot of pitches and grinding out at-bats, is that something you make a conscience effort to do?

PUNTO: Yeah, I think down at the bottom of the line-up like that, you’ve got to be taking pitches and trying to wear down those starters and try to get into that bullpen so that’s my way of doing that - taking some pitches, hopefully getting on base, be it a walk or getting a hit.

DZ: With Hardy out you’ve gotten to play a lot of shortstop and I know that’s probably your favorite position, what’s that been like for you?

PUNTO: Great, it’s been great. Wherever I am playing out there I am pretty comfortable, but right now getting to play everyday at shortstop has been a lot of fun.

DZ: For you personally, when you are hitting the ball well versus when you are struggling, what is the biggest difference in your mental approach?

PUNTO: It’s not fun for anybody to struggle, you’ve just got to grind it out, you’ve to struggle - there are going to be good times and bad times during the course of the season. You’ve just got to try to limit those bad times to fewer days.

DZ: With Cuddyer playing a lot next to you lately - he hadn’t been in the infield for a while - have you had to help him out with positioning?

PUNTO: Yeah, but he’s such a good athlete and he knows the game - he’s been around the game a long time - he’s a veteran. He started out as an infielder and a third baseman so he knows the infield. I definitely help him out when he needs it, but for the most part he’s got it down over there.

DZ: This year your partner in crime, Mike Redmond, is not with the team anymore, do you stay in touch with him?

PUNTO: I do, a lot of text messages. He’s doing good - family is good. He definitely misses the guys over here.

DZ: I ask this to a lot of the guys who have been on the team for awhile, have you been heading to a game and just kind of went on autopilot to the Dome?

PUNTO: You know that hasn’t happened to me yet, but I have had to consciously think about it a couple of times. Luckily for me I take 394 and from 394 you can really miss the stadium.

DZ: You have a really good relationship with Ron Gardenhire, do you feel like you have a bond with him because he came up in a similar role - being a utility player - he understands what it is like to do your job?

PUNTO: Yeah, that’s a huge thing. He keeps all his players active, he tries to keep you fresh, get everybody at-bats and that’s key from him being a utility player and knowing what it’s like sitting on the bench. I think that’s why he’s so good with his bench guys.

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

June 12: Jason Kubel
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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    […] 5: Nick Punto June 12: Jason Kubel June 9: Drew Butera May 11: Denard Span April 25: Justin Morneau April 22: […]

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  15. Q&A with Twins Rookie Outfielder Ben Revere » MinnesotaSCORE Says:

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    […] July 23: Ron Mahay July 21: Danny Valencia July 11: Michael Cuddyer July 8: Jason Repko July 5: Nick Punto June 12: Jason Kubel June 9: Drew Butera May 11: Denard Span April 25: Justin Morneau April 22: […]

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