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Cuddyer hopes to make ‘08 vanish

By Jon Krawczynski

Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Michael Cuddyer has a deck of playing cards in his hands, anything can happen.

In the blink of an eye, an ace of spades somehow teleports from the middle of your hand into a box of doughnuts on the other side of the table.

With the slap of his hand, Cuddyer can make a card sitting on top of a bench swap places with one he has in his palm underneath it.

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He is the Minnesota Twins’ hitting Houdini. The Merlin of the Metrodome.

Yet for all those seemingly mystical powers, Cuddyer never was able to conjure the right magic trick to cure all the flukey health problems he had last season.

"If I had any magic tricks for that, I would have tried," Cuddyer said with a chuckle. "I was tempted to go to a witch doctor or something."

After signing a three-year, $24 million deal before last season, Cuddyer appeared in only 71 games in 2008 because injuries to his hands and foot. He says he was only healthy for four games.

"It was one of those years for him that you don’t wish on anybody," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You’ve seen it happen with guys, one after another. Those freak things kept happening to him."

It started when he cut and dislocated the index finger on his right hand on a headfirst slide into third base and missed 17 games in April.

One thing after another

Though still bothered by the injury, Cuddyer returned late in the month and played into June, when he strained a tendon in his left index finger. He tried to play through the pain for two weeks, but hit the disabled list on June 29 for another six weeks.

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And two days before he was set to rejoin the team in August for a series against the New York Yankees, Cuddyer took a lead off first base during a rehab assignment for Triple-A Rochester. Teammate Garret Jones smacked a line drive that hit Cuddyer in the left foot.

Wouldn’t you know it? Cuddyer had a broken bone that kept him out of action for another month.

By the time he was activated on Sept. 13, his Twins were in the middle of a pennant race and outfielder Denard Span was playing too well for Gardenhire to sit him down. So Cuddyer finished the season with a .249 average, three homers and 36 RBIs.

Nothing magical about those numbers.

"I was really, really frustrated. I tried not to let on because this team is bigger than me and there’s no way I was going to bring this team down on the mental side of things," Cuddyer said. "But it did, it took a toll on me. I was extremely frustrated the whole season.

"But I’m recharged."

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