For Jason Kubel: A make-or-break year

The veteran outfielder's numbers were down last season, due in part to trying to hit home runs. He hopes to pile up the doubles in 2011.

FORT MYERS, FLA. - As he heads into his seventh major league season, Twins outfielder Jason Kubel finds himself thinking about how far he's come in his career and where it might be going. More specifically, whether it will continue with the Twins.

Kubel will be a free agent after this season and, at 28, could use a big year to help the Twins return to the postseason -- and perhaps motivate them to offer him another contract.

If he needs any more motivation, there's his 2010 season, during which he batted .249 with 21 homers and 92 RBI after going .300-28-103 the previous year.

"It has [made me think about my career],'' Kubel said. "Not just being with the Twins the whole time --I do want to stay with them. But I've been playing that long already. I was drafted in 2000. It's been a while, not just in general but with one team. So we'll see."

He indicated that he hasn't quite become the hitter he thought he'd be as he rose through the Twins farm system. That includes a 2004 season during which he hit .377-6-29 at Class AA New Britain, .343-16-71 at Class AAA Rochester and then .300 in 23 games with the Twins. A knee injury suffered during Arizona Fall League later that year led to reconstructive knee surgery that knocked him out for the 2005 season and derailed some of his development.

"I still think I can keep getting better,'' Kubel said." I don't think I've had a year after my knee surgery that was like the one before the injury. I'm still trying to find that again.''

Kubel is coming off a third consecutive season of at least 20 home runs. But after a year trying to pull balls to right field at Target Field -- and ending up with his worst numbers since becoming a regular -- Kubel pledges to stop worrying about homers and use the whole field.

"Just got into bad habits trying to do different things just because the ball wasn't flying the way we thought it would," Kubel said. "So I'm not going to do that anymore. I've been working on going back to normal. It will work; just might not get home runs.''

With his objectives clear, Kubel is off to a good start in spring training, batting .478 with one homer and seven RBI in nine games, That included a single to left and double to right on Friday during the Twins' 3-2 victory over Boston.

He's ready to embrace Target Field and collect doubles instead of lamenting about it being a tough park in which to hit home runs.

The bigger issue for Kubel is how often he'll get to prove he's changed.

He was expected to be the designated hitter last season and split left field duties with Delmon Young. When Justin Morneau was sidelined with a concussion on July 7, Kubel filled in as the right fielder, playing a total of 83 games there. Michael Cuddyer moved to first as Morneau's replacement and Jim Thome became the full-time DH.

Morneau started his first official spring game on Friday and looks poised to return to first base. Young is coming off a .298-21-112 season and should get most of the at-bats in left. Thome is back and won't be allowed to get rusty on the bench.

If everyone stays healthy, Kubel is looking at fewer than the 518 at-bats he had last season. How can he make a case for the Twins to keep him that way?

It's also potentially a daily headache for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who likely will use matchups, a coin and a Ouija board to figure out how to keep Young, Kubel and Thome productive and sharp.

"There are so many different options you have to keep people in the lineup and move people around,'' Gardenhire said. "Someone is going to have to sit out when you do that. Like I said, that it is a challenge, but it is always a nice challenge that we didn't get to use enough last year because of injuries.''

Kubel understands there might not be a lot of at-bats for him in the outfield this season. But the way he's started the spring suggests he plans on hitting whenever and wherever he's asked to play.

"I know I have plenty more years left,'' he said. "I [could] have as many years left as I have in. It's weird, so we will see.''

  • related content

  • Nishioka plays with Japan on his mind

    Saturday March 12, 2011

    Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka doesn't read the papers or watch television in the morning, so he didn't realize his native Japan had been rocked by earthquakes and a tsunami until...

  • Video: Spring training snowbirds rub it in

    Friday March 11, 2011

    Twins fans show off how good they have it watching spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.

  • Morneau happy with second appearance, anxious to do more

    Friday March 11, 2011

    Justin Morneau's first appearance of spring training occurred during a B game on Tuesday. His first official exhibition game was on Friday against Boston, when he was cheered during pregame...

  • Gant says bobblehead of tangle with Hrbek is 'pretty neat'

    Friday March 11, 2011

    The Atlanta Braves baserunner who got in a pivotal first-base tangle in the 1991 World Series with Minnesota's Kent Hrbek said Friday that the Twins 2011 bobblehead immortalizing the play...

  • Jason Kubel

  • TWINS SPRING TRAINING

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Detroit 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Portland 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Toronto
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 7:00 PM
Houston
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Atlanta
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Utah
Washington 9:30 PM
Phoenix
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Washington
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 6:00 PM
UCF
Winthrop 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Colgate
Northeastern 6:00 PM
Drexel
Wake Forest 6:00 PM
Florida State
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Fordham
Delaware 6:00 PM
James Madison
South Carolina 6:00 PM
LSU
New Hampshire 6:00 PM
Maine
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
Marquette
Binghamton 6:00 PM
UMBC
American Univ 6:00 PM
Navy
Elon 6:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Wright State 6:00 PM
Oakland
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Penn State
Duquesne 6:00 PM
Richmond
SMU 6:00 PM
South Florida
Hartford 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Albany 6:00 PM
Vermont
Hofstra 6:00 PM
William & Mary
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
Longwood
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 6:30 PM
Notre Dame
Texas Tech 6:30 PM
Oklahoma
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Bradley
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Bucknell
Rice 7:00 PM
Houston
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
Creighton
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Memphis
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Purdue
Kansas 8:00 PM
TCU
Oregon 9:00 PM
Arizona
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Washington
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 6:00 PM
Binghamton
Akron 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Memphis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
East Carolina 6:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
Murray State 6:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Kent State 6:00 PM
Central Michigan
UT Martin 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Eastern Michigan 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Lehigh
Indiana 6:00 PM
Michigan State
Colgate 6:00 PM
Lafayette
Fordham 6:00 PM
Davidson
Duquesne 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
George Mason 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Detroit 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
SIU-Edwardsville
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
Minnesota
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
Wyoming
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM
UNLV

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close