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Continued: Good company: Joe Mauer and the move to first base

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  • Last update: March 30, 2014 - 8:38 AM

Puckett was called up to the Twins early in the 1984 season as a skinny, speedy center fielder; he had four homers and 35 stolen bases in 289 games his first two seasons. He was a tremendous center fielder, winning six Gold Gloves his first nine seasons, known for his leaping catches at the fence to rob opponents of home runs. But in 1993 the Twins began playing Puckett in right field (47 games), and he moved there on a regular basis the next season.

Why

Puckett by 1993 had clearly lost a step in center. He added weight, helping increase his power at the plate — 31 homers in his third season — but too many balls were falling in front of him by the time the Twins made the decision to move their future Hall of Famer to right field. Puckett possessed a strong throwing arm and was an above-average right fielder, although he never won a Gold Glove after the move.

The result

We’ll never know if the move would have lengthened Puckett’s career. He awoke one morning in spring training of 1996 with vision problems in his right eye, and never played again. His last at-bat as a major leaguer was Sept. 28, 1995, when he was beaned by Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez; doctors said that injury was not related to Puckett’s vision problems the next spring.

Dennis Brackin

 

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