CHICAGO – As it turned out, the Twins’ Sept. 23 loss to Seattle in Target Field was probably Kurt Suzuki’s farewell to Minnesota.
The veteran catcher probably won’t play again this season, manager Paul Molitor said Friday, unless it’s as a pinch hitter. And with his contract up once the season ends, it appears that Suzuki’s three-year stint with the Twins is over.
“I kind of let him know that there’s no need for him to push himself to play. … I want to see [John Ryan] Murphy play a little bit,” Molitor said. “I think he’s fine with it. He’s taken a beating.”
That’s certainly true; Suzuki has been the recipient of what seems like an inordinate number of jarring foul balls off his face mask this season, but he’s weathered them to an amazing degree. Suzuki never went on the disabled list during his time with the Twins, and until this week, never even missed more than two games in a row.
While he understands that Sunday is probably his last day as a Twin, he doesn’t intend for it to be his last as a major leaguer.
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty decent year, at least until this month. I feel like I still have a lot left,” said Suzuki, who turns 33 Tuesday. “I still love playing, but you want to win. You come to a point in your career — I’ve been in this game 10 years — where it’s time to start winning. … I’d love to get a World Series ring.”
Suzuki has had an odd season, batting .191 over his first 23 games, then .355 over his next 46 to quiet fears about his production. But he’s only 8-for-50 (.160) in September, and Molitor has increasingly given playing time to Murphy and Juan Centeno.
“It’s been a bit of a rough finish, but I’m sure he’s got a lot on his mind,” Molitor said. “It’s probably been as awkward a month for him as anybody in that clubhouse, when you’re playing out into your free agency as a catcher in your early 30s.”
It’s not the way Suzuki, who earned an All-Star berth for the 2014 game at Target Field, hoped to finish his Twins career, but he said the team’s fate bothers him more than his own.
“The most difficult part is, we’re in last place. There’s so much uncertainty about everybody’s future,” Suzuki said. “This month has been tough. But we’ve still got a great group of guys in this clubhouse, so we try to have as much fun as we can.”
And his three seasons were plenty of fun, Suzuki said. He earned almost $15 million; caught the final out of that All-Star Game from Twins teammate Glen Perkins; batted .268 with 16 homers in 368 games; and, he added, “My wife and kids had a blast. We lived on a lake the last three years. When your time is up, you can’t really control that.
“Not really knowing is a little uneasy. But the All-Star Game, my third child was born here — we’ve got a lot of memories.”
A boost for Betts
Brian Dozier was back in the lineup Friday, still in pursuit of his 100th RBI and perhaps another historic home run or two. He’s obviously the Twins’ Most Valuable Player this season, and he might receive a few stray votes on the back end of some Baseball Writers Association of America ballots (which ask voters to rank their top 10) for the AL MVP award, too.
Dozier smirked at the thought that his 42 home runs and 99 RBI might merit any sort of national consideration, not on a team with a record number of losses.
“That is the last thing on my mind,” Dozier said. “I could care less if I’m first place or last place.”
OK, then, who would Dozier vote for? The MLB Players Association hands out its own players’ choice awards now, too, based on a vote of big leaguers.
“I’d say the best player in the big leagues this year would be [Red Sox outfielder] Mookie Betts,” Dozier said. “An all-around player, defensively, offensively, stealing bags, power, average, on base — he brings more to the table for his team than anybody else.”