Cuddyer rides out cycle against Crew
Outfielder finishes off night full of firsts with historic feat
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer has always been known for his hustle -- whether that means sliding hard to break up a double play or using every bit of speed he has to stretch a single into a double.So it seemed only fitting that to complete his first career cycle Friday night, Cuddyer was given another test of that hustle. This time, the outfielder had to leg out a triple on a broken-bat grounder down the left-field line in order to accomplish the elusive feat.
"I definitely wasn't thinking a triple out of the box," Cuddyer said. "You run hard in case something happens, and I got around second, saw [left fielder Ryan Braun] wasn't there to the ball and kept going. I guess it was just in the cards tonight."Cuddyer became the second Twins player to hit for the cycle this season and the 10th player in team history to accomplish the feat with his 4-for-5 performance in Friday night's 11-3 win over the Brewers at the Metrodome. It took Cuddyer just four plate appearances to tally the cycle, as he hit a home run in the first inning, delivered a ground-rule double in the third, ripped an RBI single in the fourth and then hit his broken-bat triple in the sixth. His lone out came in the eighth inning on a groundout. "I don't think even in Little League that I've ever hit for the cycle before," Cuddyer said, his dimples showing more than usual thanks to his mile-wide smile. "It's fun. You can't really describe it. Obviously, it doesn't happen every day. It's a day that I'll always remember." For Cuddyer, Friday night's performance meant a little more, considering what he's battled through in recent seasons. Cuddyer spent most of last season on the disabled list, playing in just 71 games due to injuries to both index fingers and a broken bone in his foot. He also played through a thumb injury in the second half of 2007 that hampered his hitting. Cuddyer came to Spring Training eager to get a new season started, and after batting just .224 in April, he's seen things turn around this month. He's hitting .354 in 21 games in May. Six of his seven homers have come during that time, and he's been able to play a crucial role for the offense, delivering 23 RBIs so far this month. "As I said in Spring Training, all I wanted to do was to help the team on the field," Cuddyer said. "Obviously, I was a little rusty in April. I didn't really get off to the start I wanted to. I felt good. I felt like I was swinging the bat well, just things weren't falling for me. But the past couple weeks, I've been able to help the team, and that's what is exciting." Cuddyer joined Jason Kubel as the second Twin to hit for the cycle this season. Kubel delivered his cycle against the Angels on April 17 at the Metrodome. The last team to have two players hit for the cycle in the same season was the 2003 Montreal Expos, when Vladimir Guerrero and Brad Wilkerson each accomplished the feat. It's also the third cycle the Twins have recorded in the past two seasons. Carlos Gomez hit for the cycle in a contest against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 7, 2008. Prior to Gomez's cycle, it had been nearly 22 years since a Twins player had hit for the cycle. Kirby Puckett hit for the cycle at the Metrodome on Aug. 1, 1986, against Oakland. Cuddyer began his cycle with a bang, belting a three-run homer to left-center field in the first inning off Brewers starter Manny Parra. It marked his third straight game with a home run, the first time he's done that in his career. Cuddyer then led off the third inning with a ground-rule double to left-center field off Parra. In the fourth, Cuddyer added an RBI single to center field to cap off a four-run inning for Minnesota. That single left Cuddyer just a triple short of the cycle. And in the sixth inning, he delivered that triple. As the barrel of his bat flew down the left-field line along with the ball, Cuddyer hustled to third base in time to beat the throw from Braun. "It seemed like he was locked in, definitely," Parra said. "He breaks a bat and hits a triple down the line. Its just one of those nights." The crowd of 30,297 at the Metrodome recognized immediately what Cuddyer had accomplished, rewarding him with a standing ovation when he slid into third for the triple. "I think the triple is a part of him because he busts his tail every play," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "When he swings the bat, he always runs the ball out, and he wouldn't have got to third base if he wasn't running from the get-go. That's the way he plays the game." But while Cuddyer knew that a triple would give him the feat, the outfielder said that he only headed for third when he realized that Braun had not reached the ball by the time he'd rounded second base. "If he had the ball, I was going to stop," said Cuddyer, who tied a career high with four hits and five RBIs in the game. "What was the score? Ten or 11-1 at the time? If he had the ball, there was no reason to run. But he wasn't even close." While cycles are always special, the Twins wanted to make this one a little more fun. That's why they surprised the outfielder by having him walk into an empty clubhouse after his big day. Hiding in a back room, they all jumped out at Cuddyer when given the word that he was there. "I'm happy for Michael because no one works as hard and no one felt as bad about last year as he did," Gardenhire said. "No one is going to outwork the guy. He's right at the top as far as his work habits and getting after the game. He's a leader out there in the clubhouse. We expect good things out of him, and hopefully those things will continue."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.