Reusse: Gardenhire wasn't misguided about Kubel

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 14, 2014 - 12:54 AM

Reclamation project seems to have rediscovered power stroke with Twins.


Twins outfielder Jason Kubel

Photo: , Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Ron Gardenhire started talking about Jason Kubel as a member of his 2014 lineup almost from the time the veteran outfielder was signed to a make-good, minor league contract on Dec. 13.

This seemed to be a presumptuous stance for Gardenhire to take. Kubel would be 32 in May and was coming off a frightful 2013. He batted .216 with five home runs and 32 RBI in a combined 97 games for Arizona and Cleveland.

The Kubel angst among Twins followers increased when he went 1-for-21 in the first couple of weeks of exhibition games.

“When you get to a certain age and have a bad season, the question can creep into your mind: ‘Am I done?’ ” hitting coach Tom Brunansky said.

Brunansky had no background with Kubel. Jason left for Arizona after the 2011 season; Brunansky arrived as the hitting coach in 2013.

“I had to build my own relationship with him,” Brunansky said. “I found out in our first couple of sessions in the batting cage that he had no worries about being done; that Jason believed he still could hit.”

So why the horrible start for Kubel in Florida?

“It was a case of keeping his head still; that’s all,” Brunansky said. “He was antsy and going forward with his head and his body on most swings. I don’t think when a hitter is coming off a season when he missed a lot of time with injuries that it’s unusual to see him antsy like that.

“Once Jason started staying still and staying back, that’s when we started to see his real swing. It’s a very aggressive swing. When he gets a pitch, he goes after it. I think that’s a great thing for some of our younger hitters to see.”

One reason for mid-March visitors to Fort Myers, Fla., to come away with a highly negative impression of the Twins’ projected lineup was Gardenhire’s resolute commitment to Kubel.

So far, the manager wins on this one, even if Gardenhire was absent as the Twins scored 17 runs (10-1 and 7-1) in winning the first two games of the current series with Kansas City.

Kubel had a triple off the right-field wall and an RBI on Friday. He had a single to start the six-run second and later a walk in that inning on Saturday. He has played in 10 games, batting .405 with six extra-base hits and seven RBI.

Bottom line: There appears to be life in Kubel’s lefthanded bat. Throw in an improvement with Trevor Plouffe (something more evident in spring training) and Chris Colabello’s occasional big hits, and the middle of this lineup hasn’t been as decrepit as it appeared would be the case in last month’s Florida sunshine.

Back in the early 2000s, three lefthanded hitters were ascending in the Twins system: Joe Mauer (the hitting machine), Justin Morneau (the slugger) and Kubel (somewhere in the middle).

Then, three days after the 2004 playoffs ended with a four-game loss to the Yankees, Kubel reported to Grand Canyon of the Arizona Fall League. He was playing his first game on Oct. 12. Teammate and second baseman Ryan Raburn plowed into Kubel’s left knee as they pursued a pop fly.

All the ligaments were ripped in that knee and Kubel missed the entire 2005 season.

In 2006, Morneau was the American League’s MVP and Mauer won the first of his three batting titles. There was also evidence of the Twins’ fondness for Kubel as a hitter:

Coming off a year lost to injury, Kubel opened the season on the big-league roster, went to Class AAA Rochester and then came back to Minnesota on May 23 as a replacement for injured Shannon Stewart.

He played through knee pain. It wasn’t until 2007 when Kubel was fully recovered from the Fall League mishap. Over the next four seasons, he hit 82 home runs and drove in 338 runs for the Twins. He had an aggressive swing and he could hit.

“I still can,” Kubel said Saturday. “It’s not like I’m old. I’m confident I have a few more years.”

Jason Kubel always has produced — including 30 home runs and 90 RBI in Arizona in 2012 — when healthy. And how does he feel at this moment?

“Fine,” he said. “No problems.”


Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 99 FINAL
Indiana 104
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Phoenix 97
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 FINAL
New Jersey 1
Chicago 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 3
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 68 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question