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Kubel might swing for fences in free agency

The Sports Xchange

Jason Kubel likes playing baseball, anytime, anywhere. But he was particularly looking forward to playing at U.S. Cellular Field this week. The Twins' slugger was fresh off a frustrating weekend at his home ballpark and was looking forward to maybe hitting a couple of homers.

"Watch, I'll hit them all on the ground now," he said, invoking the reverse jinx before Monday's series opener.

His point was clear: After belting four pitches he believed should all have been home runs in a weekend series against the Tigers at Target Field, Kubel was hoping he'd do the same at the Chicago White Sox's park because there, he was sure, they would all be home runs.

In fact, one of his two home runs in the three-game Chicago series, an opposite-field fly that just cleared the left-field fence in Wednesday's 7-6 victory, wasn't hit nearly as well as any of the weekend blasts at Target Field, where only one of the four found the seats.

Asked if that one goes out at Target Field, Kubel said, "Not even close" before adding, "But a home run is a home run."

Indeed, they all count the same in the scorebook and on the agate page, and they all feel good for a player -- such as Kubel -- who makes his living by generating offense.

The question Kubel -- and at some point the Twins -- must confront is whether Target Field is the right place for a left-handed power hitter entering his prime. For the first time in his career, Kubel, 29, can become a free agent as soon as the World Series is over.

Batters have hit 115 homers at Target Field this season, but 77 of them have been to left and left-center field, where the fences are farther from home plate by an average of 10.5 feet but are only 8 feet high -- 15 feet shorter than the wall in right and right-center.

In the team's last season in the Metrodome, 2009, Kubel had career highs of 28 homers, 103 RBI and a .300 batting average. Last year at Target Field, those numbers dipped to 21, 92 and .249. "I didn't feel good putting balls in the air, hitting them good and seeing your average drop every day," he said.

And so Kubel must ask himself what he wants. There's no doubt he'll have options other than Minnesota next season; will Target Field's unforgiving dimensions play a factor in his decision?

"I do like it here enough to not worry about that part," he said. "I mean, it was working (earlier) this year; it's just that now, I'm not getting all the hits like I was. I feel the same, and I'm hitting the ball hard, but there's just too much air under them now, so I'm not getting hits.

"It doesn't matter. We'll see what happens. There are a lot of things that offset that for this team."

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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