The Power of Three
R) Bobby Kielty, Dustan Mohr, and Michael Cuddyer|
Who's in right?
It's a question on the lips of many Twin's fans these days. Although manager Ron Gardenhire describes the question as
"beating a dead horse," it's not likely to go way as long as Michael Cuddyer, Bobby Kielty, and Dustan Mohr are around.
trio that rose through the ranks of the Twins minor league system together, now finds themselves battling for playing time,
yet through it all they have remained close friends. "We understand that you can only play nine players at a time," Cuddyer
said. "We are great friends; we have a great relationship; and we just want to make this team stronger."
coach Scott Ulger says all three deserve playing time, "They are all fundamentally sound hitters and capable major league
players, which is a luxury that we have."
Of the three, Cuddyer is the most highly touted. The ninth overall
pick in the 1997 draft, he was the Twins 2001 Minor League Player of the Year following a 30 home run season. The Twins
love his power potential and versatility. Originally a shortstop, he was moved to third base and eventually to the outfield.
"I continue to work at every position," the 24 year old explained. "When I am not in the lineup, I will take
ground balls at third base just to stay fresh. If Corey (Koskie) has to take a day off, I have to be ready to go in
there and play third; if Doug (Mientkiewicz) needs the day off, I'll play first. It helps me stay up here."
Twins felt so highly of Cuddyer that they used him as their primary right fielder during the playoffs last fall. "To
know that they had that much confidence in me to put me in those games, especially since I hadn't played the whole year, was
a big confidence booster for me," the Virginia native said.
Kielty is the most polished hitter of the trio and is
also quite versatile. A switch-hitter, he can play all three outfield position well and fill in at first base. A patient
hitter that has a knack for getting on base, Kielty has become a valuable pinch-hitter. On consecutive days last September,
he belted pinch-hit, game winning home runs in the eighth inning versus the rival White Sox.
"Bobby usually comes
through in big situations when he pinch-hits," said Mohr. "He's good at not playing for a few days and then going in
there and producing."
Kielty, however, insists there is no secret to his heroics, "It's so hard coming off the bench,"
the 26 year old commented. "When you pinch-hit, you sit on the bench for two and a half hours and you're not really
warm. You have to go out there and stay aggressive and not try not to let any good pitches get by you."
by Cuddyer as a "bulldog", Mohr is a scrapper. Released by Cleveland in 2000 after three seasons in the lower levels
of their farm system, he was heading home to Mississippi when a phone call changed his life.
"I was still really young;
it was just the matter of getting with the right team and right opportunity," Mohr explained. "Fortunately the Twins
called and their scouts liked me and they wanted me to come and play for them. I thought the Twins would be a good organization
to be with and that I would have a chance to advance."
Now at age 26, he has found a niche in the big leagues, "It
couldn't have worked out any better, I've found a home here and I fit in well with the Twins style of baseball," he said.
"I really enjoy this group of guys."
The camaraderie built up between
the players extends beyond the diamond. During Spring Training in 2002, Kielty and Mohr roomed together and currently,
Cuddyer and Mohr share a bachelor pad in the Uptown area of Minneapolis.
"He's a little bit of a pretty boy," Mohr
said of Cuddyer. "He's into the jell and the hair and that type of the thing. I am ugly. I wear a hat everywhere
I go. It's a good match; we compliment each other."
Best friends, Mohr and Cuddyer don't pass up the chance
to give each other a good natured ribbing. "(Cuddyer) listens to a lot of the boy bands like N'sync and the Backstreet
Boys -- he has a lot of their CD's," Mohr commented. "Everybody likes different style of music. He's a big Justin
Cuddyer denied owning an N'sync t-shirt, and fired back at his roommate. "Just because (Mohr) doesn't
have hair is the only reason he's not a pretty boy," Cuddyer explained. In every other aspect, he's a pretty boy; he
tries to coordinate his outfits. When he goes out to pick up women he coordinates, he makes sure his shoes match his
Like most other twenty something singles, the young outfielders like to go out for a night on the town when
the opportunity arises. However, Cuddyer claims Mohr has an alternate agenda. "Dustan thinks he runs uptown...the only
reason he goes out is to be recognized."
Despite describing himself as "ugly", Mohr said that he has better luck with
the opposite sex. "If (Cuddyer) didn't have me, he'd be lost with the ladies," he claimed. "He's kind of shy with
the girls, I have to assist him to get the conversation going."
Suprisingly, Cuddyer didn't dispute Mohr on that point,
only saying that it "might be true."
Kielty, on the other hand, is a married man. "I don't go out much; I like
to stay in," the California native said. "If I do go out, I'm going to go out with my wife."
Kielty met his
wife, Meredith, in college and has been married for three years, "Bobby doesn't go anywhere without Meredith. They have
a relationship that I've never seen before. They are absolutely in love and love being with each other," Mohr said with
a serious tone. "I don't think they can breathe if they are apart from one another."
Cuddyer and Kielty's roles are still evolving,
Gardenhire says he has no set system in place for deciding who plays, adding that he sometimes goes with pitching match-ups
and other times by gut instinct.
The overall feeling is that the Twins would like to see Cuddyer seize hold of the
right field position because of his power potential, but Kielty's hot bat is making that decision very difficult. "I
think the better I do, the more chances I am going to have at getting at bats," Kielty commented.
By contrast, Mohr's
role seems to be set. After appearing in 120 games in 2002, he seems resigned to a backup role this year. "I kind of
knew going in that my playing time would be more limited than it was last year," the Mississippi native explained. "To
be a successful team, you can't just have a starting nine -- you have to have a bench too. If I can do the things I
need to do coming off the bench -- play in the late innings, pinch hit -- than that's what I'll do. Obviously I'd like
to be out there everyday, but I'm getting more comfortable with my role."
By the end of the season, this situation
may shake itself out; one of them could be traded or demoted or someone could step forward and just be too good to sit out.
As it stands now, however, they all must wait until they get to the park before they know who will be in the lineup.
If it's not their turn they sit on the bench rooting for their friends and staying ready in case their number is called.
now Gardenhire remains coy, claiming he may adopt the philosophy used by Wild coach Jacque Lemaire of not answering questions
about which goal tender would starting during playoffs. While that approach may save Gardenhire some breath, it certainly
won't stop Twins fans from asking.
-photo by Sebastian Vannavong
Cuddyer's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
Kielty's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
Mohr's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com
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