The Kubel Conundrum
It is not always fun to watch your favorite team lose. This is especially true when your favorite team not only has the worst record in all of Major League Baseball but is playing like they deserve it. Exasperating the lack of fun surrounding the Minnesota Twins this season is that besides losing at an astronomical pace they are underperforming at almost every position. It has been well noted this season that of the few bright spots on this team (Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe?!) that Jason Kubel has been the brightest of the bunch. But what can baseball fans expect from Kubel going forward?
Jason Kubel, despite not playing the field every day, has been in the line-up for every Twins game this season. Nearly 25% through the 2011 season and he’s played every game! Surely he’s generated some extra playing time due to the Twins’ plethora of injuries and their continued use of Michael Cuddyer at EVERY position on the diamond. This has allowed Kubel to make several appearances in RF and in LF in addition to the time he has spent at DH. He’s never played more than 146 games (2009) so there is no expectation that he continues to play every day, especially with the recent return of Delmon Young and the impending arrival of Jim Thome and Jason Repko back from the Disabled List. Manager Ron Gardenhire has struggled to put together a consistent line up because of injuries and a nasty flu bug in the Twins clubhouse, but his biggest test will figuring out a way to keep Jason Kubel in the line-up as the rest of the team returns to health.
Kubel could split time with Michael Cuddyer in RF playing in Platoon, thus giving Thome a regular opportunity to DH in place of Kubel and keeping Kubel’s bat in the game when he is not DHing. Unfortunately Ron Gardenhire has not shown that he’s particularly comfortable playing platoons and it would be unexpected if he suddenly reversed course. So when Thome returns Twins fans should expect Kubel to split time at DH and be used as a pinch hitter later in games in order to reduce the number of at bats for such juggernauts as Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, Matt Tolbert, and Rene Rivera.
But what happens when Joe Mauer returns? The Minnesota Twins will certainly not want to keep Mauer behind the plate everyday given his current health issues, and that means he will be given more ABs as the DH, shrinking Kubel’s role even further. In that scenario Jason Kubel is probably only starting every 3rd day, and keeping the Twins’ main form of offensive power on the bench for an overwhelming majority of games going forward.
But given Delmon Young’s recent performance since coming off the DL (1 for 16 with 10 strike outs) Gardenhire could keep Kubel in RF, put a bat in Thome’s hand and let Mauer play plenty of DH. But then Delmon Young, a career .289 hitter is relegated to mop up duty, a situation which is less than ideal.
There are not a lot of solid answers for this ball club and 2011 is quickly getting away from the Minnesota Twins.
Lucky Hat or not the Twins have continued to lose. Tonight I’m going to try the inside out rally cap look, see if I can’t send some good luck out to the Twins in Seattle.