Cuddyer will be ready -- even for a hole in the floor

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2011 - 10:56 PM

His production of late made him the Twins' odds-on choice to represent the AL, chosen by a skipper who sees beyond the numbers.

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The versatility of Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer helped him make the American League All-Star team as one of two manager’s picks by Texas’ Ron Washington.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune file

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Michael Cuddyer was the ninth overall selection in baseball's 1997 draft. It took most of the summer for the Twins to make a deal with the infielder from Chesapeake, Va.

That meant Cuddyer didn't get a stop in the rookie league with Elizabethton, Tenn. He made his pro debut in the spring of 1998 with Fort Wayne in the Class A Midwest League.

"That was my first All-Star Game in the minors," Cuddyer said. "The game was played in Clinton, Iowa. My hotel room had a hole in the floor."

A hole? "Yes, a good-sized hole in the floor," he said. "You had to watch yourself walking around in that room."

On Sunday morning, Cuddyer was called into the office of manager Ron Gardenhire and told he would be the Twins' representative in next week's All-Star Game in Phoenix.

Cuddyer and Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters were the two position players that were left to the discretion of Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers and the American League All-Stars.

"We all know the plight of the Minnesota Twins at the beginning of the year," Washington said. "And now that they're starting to put it together, Cuddyer has been in the middle of everything. He helps those guys believe."

Clearly, that's the endorsement Washington heard from Gardenhire when Texas was at Target Field three weeks ago. And with Cuddyer pushing his power numbers into the respectable range -- 11 home runs, 34 RBI -- it made things easier for Washington to choose Cuddyer to fill the Twins' All-Star obligation.

"Words can't describe it," Cuddyer said. "It ranks right up there with getting the first call to the big leagues."

For Cuddyer, that occurred late in September 2001, as a reward for a productive year at Class AA New Britain. It was a season that gave the Twins a first strong indication that Cuddyer would be a ballplayer of resiliency.

"I had hit for some power in my first two years in A ball, and then I went to New Britain [in 2000] ... it was a weird season," Cuddyer said. "I wasn't using my legs at all in the swing. I was out of whack all year."

The Twins' response was to convince Cuddyer to go to the instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla., in the fall. "A year earlier, I had been in the Arizona Fall League, so going back to instructional ball was a demotion," he said. "I didn't blame the Twins, though. They had to get me straightened out."

Cuddyer said he spent six weeks "just hitting" in Florida. And his numbers at New Britain went from .263 with six home runs and 61 RBI in 2000, to .301 with 30 home runs and 87 RBI in 2001.

This season -- his eighth as a big-league regular -- has been marked by a similar Cuddyer turnaround.

He had 120 at-bats on May 10 and was batting .242, with three doubles, three home runs and four RBI. Between then and Sunday's All-Star selection, Cuddyer had 163 at-bats, batting .319 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBI, and he got two more RBI after getting the news Sunday.

"You can't dwell on numbers, because it's a long, long season," Cuddyer said. "You have to believe that, if you keep working hard, things will get better."

Jason Kubel and Denard Span were eliminated as All-Star contenders with their long and ongoing stays on the disabled list. That left Cuddyer and pitcher Scott Baker as the lone possibilities to represent the Twins. And Baker has been on target to pitch Sunday in Chicago -- the last game before the All-Star Game.

So, it was apparent for some time that Cuddyer would be the Twins' choice. He brings with him the advantage of playing first, second, third or around the outfield if Washington starts running out of players late in the game.

"I don't know what they have in mind, so I'm bringing all my gloves," Cuddyer said.

Once Gardenhire told Cuddyer, the manager then walked into the clubhouse and told his teammates. A cheer was heard by reporters standing outside the closed door.

Cuddyer then went to a back room of the clubhouse to call his wife, Claudia. "She didn't answer, so I called my mom and dad and they were really excited," he said.

Claudia soon was reached, they shared the moment, and then she was given the task of cancelling a stay in a bed and breakfast in Stillwater that was planned for the All-Star break.

"We'll gladly trade that for a hotel room in Phoenix," Cuddyer said.

It will be a room at the Biltmore that will not include a hole in the floor unless it houses a jacuzzi.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

CUDDYER MAKES ALL-STAR TEAM

Versatile player made squad as one of two manager's picks by Texas' Ron Washington.

2011 MLB ALL-STAR GAME

Chase Field, Phoenix

July 12 • 7 p.m. • TV: Ch. 9

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