Who's up next for Twins? Morneau, Cuddyer and the Beast'

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Last Sunday, Jim Thome leaned over to Twins third base coach Scott Ullger during a big inning and said, "Man, we've got some kind of lineup."

Ullger replied, "Yeah, and the Beast isn't even in there."

The Beast? That would be Jason Kubel, one of the most unassuming, underrated and dangerous hitters in baseball.

Last year, Ullger heard White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson refer to Kubel as "the Beast," and the coaching staff has used the nickname ever since. As in, "Who's up next inning?" Answer: "Morneau, Cuddyer and the Beast."

"What the heck, I don't mind," Kubel said. "I don't know if it's the facial hair, or what. It's better than Wolfman; I've heard that before. I look at it as a compliment. Anything that would help get my name out there, I guess."


Sharing a clubhouse with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Kubel often is overlooked, but he batted .300 with 28 home runs last year, and his 103 RBI were the second most among American League lefties, behind Toronto's Adam Lind (114).

Kubel, who also smashed 35 doubles, ranked ninth in the league in slugging percentage, at .539. Morneau said the players had a nickname for the right field upper deck at the Metrodome.

"We called it Kubeland," Morneau said. "He had that written on his shoes last year. In (batting practice), all he does is hit balls into the upper deck."

Balls kept sailing into Kubeland last October, with the Twins clinging to playoff hope. Kubel had two home runs and six RBI in the Twins' Game 162 victory over Kansas City, and his sixth-inning shot off Detroit's Rick Porcello in Game 163 was one of that night's unheralded moments. Porcello had been cruising, but Kubel trimmed Detroit's lead to 3-2, prompting the Tigers to call on their thin bullpen.

Of course, then came the AL Division Series against the Yankees and three of the worst games Kubel had all season. He went 1-for-14 — with nine strikeouts.

"All of a sudden, I was just missing all the pitches I was hitting," Kubel said. "It wasn't putting too much pressure on myself, I was just missing everything."

It was reminiscent of 2004, when Kubel dominated the minors and batted .300 in 23 games for the Twins before going 1-for-7 in the division series against the Yankees, including a big strikeout against Mariano Rivera in Game 2.

"I don't put too much thought into that," Kubel said. "If we get there again this year, I expect to do just what I did during the season."


The Twins do, too. Kubel, 27, will continue to be the team's regular designated hitter, and he'll see time in the outfield, enabling Thome, 39, to join him in the lineup.

Kubel didn't face the Rays on Sunday, when Ullger and Thome had their talk, but the Beast was back in there Thursday against Tampa Bay and went 2-for-3 with a homer. Kubel is batting .350 for the spring, with three homers and nine RBI in 40 at-bats.

"Get 'em, Beast," Gardenhire said. "That's good enough for me. I'd take (the nickname) and run with it."


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