Simply Baseball Notebook: Cover Stories

Bobby Kielty Has Arrived

August 2002

 Bobby Kielty Has Arrived


Last year we predicted that Bobby Kielty would be a star in the big leagues. Now, over halfway into the 2002 season, it looks like we were right on target. The switch hitting outfielder is one of the top rookies in all of baseball. He is also one of the American League's best pinch hitters. Yes, Bobby Kielty has arrived, and we think he's only begun.

After a 2001 season in which he endured three separate call-ups and demotions, Kielty is much more comfortable and relaxed this season. Through August 1st, Kielty is batting .327, belted eight home runs, and driven in 35 in only 199 at bats. He has also shown a keen eye at the plate - his on base percentage has hovered in the .450 range.

"Bobby's great," says manager Ron Gardenhire, "I wish I could play him everyday, but I've got another .300 hitter (Dustan Mohr) and a good looking rookie (Michael Cuddyer) that I have to get in there too. You can't let guys like that sit for a week, or they lose their edge."

Gardenhire went on to say that many fans on his radio show, and even his brother-in-law, criticize him for not playing Kielty more often.

Kielty, meanwhile, believes last year's roller coaster ride as well as a strong showing in spring training have contributed to his success thus far. "Last year I was really overwhelmed in the big leagues," he explained. "I could never really get locked in and relax. This year I am so much more comfortable at the plate."

"Just getting your feet wet in the big leagues, getting some at-bats, and having some success (helped a lot), and spring training was a confidence builder as well," Kielty went on to say.

Despite hitting over .300 and showing a great deal of improvement, Kielty was the Twins' final roster cut after Spring Training. His friend and Spring Training roommate Dustan Mohr won the job. After playing just two games for AAA Edmonton, however, Kielty rejoined the parent club when OF Brian Buchanan was placed on the disabled list and has been there ever since.

"It was hard to take," Kielty said of his Spring Training release, "but I got called up so quickly, it really wasn't that bad. It would have been a lot harder if I had been stuck down at AAA."

Now Kielty finds himself in a battle with Mohr for playing time. He insisted, however, that it has not put a strain on their relationship. " We know our roles, when he's in there I root for him, and when I'm in there he roots for me. The fact that we are both doing so well makes it fun" the rookie explained.

Kielty, who can play all three outfield positions, says his mental approach and routine help him stay ready and prepared despite not playing everyday. "I just come to the park everyday and get ready; if I am in there I am ready to go," he said.

Last season it was reported that Kielty toyed with the notion of giving up switch hitting and batting right handed only. He even discussed it with then-manager Tom Kelly, who told him it was too valuable of an ability to just give up on. At Twinsfest in February, he said his top goal was to improve his left handed hitting. So far, so good, as Kielty has consistently been around the .340 mark from the left side.

"I went to winter ball (in the Dominican Republic) and really did well (hitting left handed), and I've worked with (hitting coach) Scotty Ulger who's helped me out a lot it's really paid off," Kielty commented.

Kielty's success warrants consideration for the Rookie of the Year Award, but the soft-spoken OF downplays the idea. "I really don't (think about the award). I don't have enough at-bats. Guys like (Eric) Hinske, for example, he's had two hundred more at-bats than me. Anything is possible, it's kind of out of reach, but anything can happen."

Bobby Kielty is developing into an all around, versatile player. He can hit for average, power, steal an occasional base, cover a lot of ground in the outfield, and gun down runners with his arm. The future looks bright for Bobby Kielty - just remember that you heard it here first.

-David Zingler

-photo by Sebastian Vannavong

Kielty's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com


Simply Baseball Notebook