Twins' Cuddyer gets first career start in center field
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the day he signed a three-year, $24 million contract extension back in January, Michael Cuddyer heard that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was contemplating moving him from right field to center field to replace Torii Hunter.
Cuddyer simply let out a little chuckle and shrugged it off, saying he thought Gardenhire was joking.
It was no laughing matter Monday night as the Twins opened a four-game series with Texas at the Metrodome. With Carlos Gomez still nursing a sore wrist and veteran Craig Monroe getting a day off after three straight games in center field in Colorado, Gardenhire moved Cuddyer into center field.
"Did I really think I was going to go out there? Probably not," Cuddyer said, recalling scenario that played out in January. "But I'm not unaccustommed to switching positions by any means. It's not like I've only played one position my whole life and now I'm switching. There's no shock factor."
With the start in center field, it means that the fifth-year veteran has played every position in the field for the Twins at least once except for pitcher and catcher.
"It completes my tour around the major league baseball diamond," Cuddyer said, jokingly adding that he doesn't consider pitchers baseball players and catcher doesn't count either because "they're idiots."
He was then asked if he remembered the last time he played center field at any level.
"Yeah," Cuddyer said. "Never."
Gomez was inserted as a pinch-runner in the ninth on Monday night, got an infield hit in the 12th and scored the winning run on a single by Clark in the 7-6 victory.
When the day started, Gardenhire said Gomez was still recovering, so he didn't have much of a choice in center field. The Twins committed three errors in Sunday's loss to the Rockies, a defensive ineptitude that irked Gardenhire.
"We've really missed a lot of plays lately," Gardenhire said. "We're going to see what we can do here to try to catch the ball a little better. It's not like they aren't working at it or anything like that. But that doesn't mean I can't try different things and move people around. I will."
Gardenhire also used second baseman Brendan Harris at DH and put Alexi Casilla in the field. Jason Kubel started in Cuddyer's normal spot in right field and Cuddyer moved back home when Gomez stayed in the game in the ninth.
"He's excited," Gardenhire said of Cuddyer. "He says he feels free, whatever that means. He likes the wide open spaces out there."
Cuddyer didn't seem too concerned about the switch.
"See it and catch it. That's all you can do. It's no reason to panic or anything like that," Cuddyer said. "The ball goes up, do the best you can to get it in your glove."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press