Cuddyer - Professional Career - Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins

Cuddyer was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round (9th pick) of the 1997 amateur draft, but did not sign until August. Consequently he did not get his first taste of organized baseball until 1998 when he was assigned to the Fort Wayne Wizards in the single-A Midwest League. Showing the tools that made him a #1 draft pick and regularly named to the Baseball America's top minor league prospects, Cuddyer made steady progress through the Twins' minor league system and made his Major League Baseball debut on September 23, 2001 after hitting .301 with 30 homeruns and 87 RBI in 141 games at AA New Britain. After hitting .309 with 20 homeruns in 86 games at AAA Edmonton, Cuddyer would be called back up with the Twins for the 2002 stretch drive and would be named to the post-season roster where he would hit over .300 against the Oakland A's and the Anaheim Angels. Despite playing over half of his 676 minor league games at thirdbase and another 166 games at second, prior to the 2004 Cuddyer got most of his playing time as an occasional fill-in in the outfield. During 2004, Cuddyer started to see more time in the majors in the infield, playing second and third base. After the departure of veteran Twins third baseman Corey Koskie to the Toronto Blue Jays by way of free agency in 2005, Cuddyer became the Twins' starting third baseman. However, he struggled at third base and was relegated to a reserve role for much of 2005, although he did hit .263 with 12 homeruns for the second season in a row.

Cuddyer underwent surgery to repair a tear in his right lateral meniscus in October 2005. The Twins then extended his contract on January 21, 2006, giving him a one-year deal worth $1.3 million. After beginning the 2006 season on the bench, Cuddyer emerged as a regular in right field and in the cleanup spot of the Twins batting order. He finished second to Justin Morneau in RBI for the Twins in 2006.

Prior to the 2008 season, Cuddyer re-signed with the Twins for three-years, $24 million with a $10.5 million club option for 2011.

On April 4, 2008, Cuddyer suffered a dislocated right index finger after sliding headfirst into third base. He also suffered a laceration on the knuckle after getting stepped on by Kansas City Royals third baseman Alex Gordon. He was put on the 15-day disabled list and was activated on April 25 against the Texas Rangers. On his second game after being activated, Cuddyer hit a three-run home run off Rangers' Scott Feldman, his first of the 2008 season. On May 22, 2009 Cuddyer hit for the cycle in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

On August 23, 2009, Cuddyer hit two home runs in the same inning, the seventh inning of the Twins' game against the Kansas City Royals, becoming the 53rd player in Major League Baseball to accomplish this feat. During September and October 2009, Cuddyer moved back into the infield playing first base filling in for Justin Morneau. Cuddyer returned to the outfield at the start of the 2010 season, but also found playing time at first and third base.

On July 3, 2011, Cuddyer was named an all-star for the first time as a managers pick. On July 25, Cuddyer became the first Twins position player to pitch in a game in 21 years when he was inserted in the eighth inning of a Twins loss against the Texas Rangers, in which they lost 20-6. The right-hander gave up a double to Mike Napoli, a bloop single to Mitch Moreland, and walked Ian Kinsler with one out to load the bases. Cuddyer then retired Elvis Andrus on a fly ball and David Murphy on a pop-up for a scoreless inning. The last Twins position player to pitch was outfielder John Moses against the California Angels on July 31, 1990.

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