Hartman: Suzuki's signing valuable for Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 12:44 AM

The catcher is having a career year thus far and also lauded for being a leader in the clubhouse.

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Minnesota Twins' Kurt Suzuki follows through on a base hit to right field to drive in a run against the New York Yankees during the eighth inning on Friday, May 30, 2014, in New York. The Yankees won 6-1. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Photo: Julie Jacobson, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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The Twins signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a one-year, $2.75 million deal in the offseason after moving Joe Mauer to first base. A little over two months into the 2014 season, that signing is proving to be one of General Manager Terry Ryan’s best.

Suzuki is hitting .306 after going 2-for-4 in the Twins’ 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

He leads all American League catchers who have played at least 50 games in batting average, on-base percentage (.375), on-base-plus slugging percentage (.779) and RBI (29). He is second in doubles (15), behind the Royals’ Salvador Perez.

Suzuki said that when he entered free agency in the offseason, the Twins were at the top of his list.

“There were some other teams that were interested [in signing me], but in talking to my agent and my family, we decided that Minnesota was the best fit for myself,” Suzuki said. “And I was really excited to become a Twin. Playing against Minnesota, you know I had a lot of respect and really admired the way they went about their business. The players played the game the right way, they were well-coached, and it just seemed like the right fit.”

Suzuki was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2004 draft, and from 2008 to ’11, the Hawaii native was one of the better-hitting catchers in baseball, averaging 12 home runs, 26 doubles, 61 RBI and 59 runs scored while hitting .259. But he struggled a bit in 2012 and 2013, which opened the door to him coming to Minnesota.

Suzuki was asked if he wants to stay here long-term if a deal can be worked out.

“That’s something to talk about in the future,” he said. “Right now my main goal is winning and you know, right now we’re hanging in there and right in the thick of things and every day we’re coming to the ballpark preparing ourselves to play. We’ll let the other stuff take care of itself.”

Having played in the American League West for most of seven seasons, Suzuki also has a good read on the Twins’ newest addition, Kendrys Morales, who spent seven years with the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners.

“First off, I am definitely glad that he is on our team and I don’t have to be catching while he’s hitting,” said Suzuki about Morales, who is hitting .462 and drove in his first three RBI for the Twins in Wednesday’s victory. “He’s a professional hitter. He uses the whole field, he has power to all parts of the field. The thing about him is you can’t match him up in the bullpen because he’s just as good from the left side as he is from the right side.

“He’s dangerous on both sides of the plate and he drives in runs. He knows what he needs to hit to drive in a run. He’s a professional hitter and he’s going to help us a lot.”

Suzuki was asked about manager Ron Gardenhire and several Twins coaches who have labeled him as one of the big leaders in the clubhouse.

“Well you know, it is definitely an honor,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a real vocal kind of guy, but I just try to go about my business and do things the right way and try to lead by example more than anything.”

U evaluates campers

Gophers football coach Jerry Kill and his staff do a good job running football camps and for that reason, the number of players attending his camps has increased every year since he took the job.

Kill was asked if he is able to recruit a number of starters after they attend the camp.

“Oh yeah, we will,” he said. “Just like coming in this year, [Owatonna freshman defensive end] Andrew Stelter, who I think is going to be a great football player, came to camp and just did a great job. [Junior] Eric Murray, a young man from Wisconsin, was a receiver coming out of high school and we worked him out at defensive back. Over the next two years, I think he’ll be an All-Big Ten guy and play in the NFL.

“So there’s no question those camps, you get that live evaluation. If you don’t do a good job evaluating camp and you can’t figure them out when you have a live evaluation, then you’re in trouble and not very good at what you do.”

Meanwhile, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview is out and he has no Gophers on his preseason All-Big Ten first team, but guard Zac Epping is on the second team and running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams are on the third team. On defensive, Steele doesn’t place any Gophers on the first team but he does select defensive lineman Theiren Cockran on the second team. His only selection from Minnesota on the All-Preseason special team is returner Marcus Jones on the third team.

Jottings

• Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor served from 2008-12 as chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, and he was elected back into that position this year on an interim basis after the resignation of Spurs owner Peter Holt. Taylor will operate in the role until the end of this year.

• The Twins are showing good sales for their home series with the Yankees over the Fourth of July weekend. Look for the team to pay tribute to Yankees legend Derek Jeter, who is retiring after this year, before the July 5 game.

• ESPN recently updated their Class of 2015 basketball recruit rankings and Grand Rapids power forward Alex Illikainen came in at No. 90. The Gophers have been heavily recruiting Illikainen and have offers out to six other top-100 players: 6-10 center Diamond Stone (No. 3 overall, Milwaukee); 6-9 power forward Henry Ellenson (No. 5 overall, Rice Lake, Wis.); 6-8 small forward Brandon Ingram (No. 12, Kinston, N.C.); 6-2 shooting guard Jalen Adams (No. 33, Roxbury, Mass.); 6-8 power forward Tyler Lydon (No. 59, Pine Plains, N.Y.) and 6-3 shooting guard Kenny Williams (No. 84, Chesterfield, Va.).

• Elizabeth Endy of Minnetonka was named the Minnesota Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year and the Metro Player of the Year by this paper. She was also the Athena Award winner as the best female athlete at Minnetonka. Endy went undefeated in the 800 meters this spring and will attend DePaul to play soccer under former Gophers player Erin (Hussey) Chastain.

• Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked his opinion on the team’s third-round draft choice, running back Jerick McKinnon. “Jerick is doing a good job,” Zimmer said. “We are using him in a lot of different situations, he catches the ball well, he has excellent acceleration coming out of the backfield, he’s learning the run reads better now. We’re glad we have him, he’s a good change-of-pace back. I mean not that Adrian [Peterson] is a slow guy, because he is obviously extremely fast, but just a different kind of back.”

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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