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
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 94 4th Qtr 1:07
LA Clippers 96
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close