Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Jan 2002

MICHAEL CUDDYER is Finally Living Up to the Hype

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The Minnesota Twins were expecting big things from Michael Cuddyer when they selected him in the first round of the 1997 draft. After posting solid, yet unspectacular numbers in his first three minor league seasons, Cuddyer (pronounced Cuh-DIE-er) struggled in 2000 at AA New Britain. 2001 was considered a make or break year for the prospect. He did not disappoint hitting .301 with 30 home runs at New Britain which earned him the Twins minor league player of the year award.

One of Cuddyer's biggest obstacles as a professional has been finding a position. He was drafted out of high school as a shortstop, but was quickly switched to third base in the minors. The switch did not go smoothly at first, Cuddyer committed 30 errors before the end of June in the 2000 season, but settled down and only made five miscues the rest of the way.

The versatile Cuddyer also learned to play first base and left field in the minors. However, with Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz entrenched at third and first, respectively, and Jacque Jones in left it appears that his best chance of sticking in the majors is in right field.

"I'll play wherever they put me," he said, "I just want to stay in the major leagues and do what I can to help the team win."

Following a disappointing 2000 season in which Cuddyer hit .263 with only six home runs and 61 RBIs in AA, his future with the Twins seemed somewhat uncertain. The organization loved his physical ability, but it wasnt translating into production on the field. After four minor league seasons, some were wondering if Cuddyer would ever put it all together.

Cuddyer answered those critics in 2001 with a breakout season. His 30 home runs nearly matched his career total entering in the 01 season (34) and he led the AA Rock Cats with 87 RBIs and 95 runs. Cuddyer's play earned him a berth in the Eastern League All Star game in which he earned MVP honors. His outstanding season did not go unnoticed by the Twins brass; they rewarded him with a long awaited call up in September.

Cuddyer made his major league debut on September 18 versus Cleveland, "I was anxious," he said, "It was a lot of fun,
it was everything I'd ever worked for just to get there. They put me in the middle of a pennant race-it was real exciting."

"It's such a big step up (being in the major leagues)," he commented,"everything is a higher class - the crowds are so much larger and there is just so much more energy."

"Being a September call up gave Cuddyer a reprieve from the usual rookie hazing, "I got called up a little too late, on (our last) road trip they didnt make me do anything embarrassing - yet."

Cuddyer gives the Twins the right handed power they sorely need. He will be given a legitimate chance to earn a spot on the Twins roster in Spring Training (providing, of course, the team is not eliminated). He says his goal is to simply make the major league roster and stick the entire season. His versatility in the field could help him achieve that goal.

Cuddyer is slated to battle Bobby Kielty, Brian Buchanan, and Dustan Mohr for the starting right field spot. Look for Cuddyer to build on his successful 2001 season, and help the Twins contend for the Central Division title in 2002.

-David Zingler

-photo by Sebastian Vannavong

Cuddyer's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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