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01/29/11 8:58 PM EST
Healthy Cuddyer focused on game, not contract
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
BLAINE, Minn. -- Michael Cuddyer's offseason didn't exactly get off to an ideal start. The Twins outfielder underwent a scheduled surgery to clean out his right knee in October shortly after his team was eliminated from the playoffs. And 12 days later, Cuddyer found himself back in the hospital, this time undergoing an emergency appendectomy. "That certainly wasn't planned, but we got through it," Cuddyer said. "It actually was not bad timing because obviously I wasn't doing much working out then anyways. If there was a time to have it, that was it. And now everything is good." On Saturday, the second day of the club's annual TwinsFest, Cuddyer was more focused on looking ahead to the upcoming season than looking back. His knee is now healthy and that's allowed him to build up strength in his right leg muscles, which he was not able to do last year when his knee was bothering him. While Cuddyer is looking forward to being healthy for the 2011 season, the question lingers as to whether this will be his last one in Minnesota. Cuddyer is entering the final year of his contract, with the Twins having picked up his $10.5 million option for the '11 season over a year ago. So far, the Twins have yet to approach Cuddyer about a contract extension and Cuddyer said his agent, Casey Close, hasn't spoken with the team at all this offseason. But Cuddyer said he isn't focused on his future right now in regards to a contract, rather he's just setting his sights on being ready to help the Twins during the upcoming season. "I don't play for contracts," Cuddyer said. "I mean it's part of the game and I know that, I'm not naive. But at the same time, it's not No. 1 on my list. No. 1 on my list is winning ballgames. And as of right now, I'm a Minnesota Twin and I want to win as a Minnesota Twin. If it is my last year, I would like to finish the goal that we started back in 1997 when I was drafted." A first round pick of the Twins back in 1997, Cuddyer is currently the longest-tenured player on this Twins' roster. Since arriving in Minnesota in 2001, he has always seemed to embody the Twins' way of playing baseball. The versatile player has shifted positions, starting at a total of five spots last year including his primary position in right field and also filling in for a prolonged stint at first base when Justin Morneau was lost in July to a concussion. His manager, Ron Gardenhire, often credits Cuddyer for his leadership both on the field and in the clubhouse. The skipper even singled out Cuddyer as team MVP candidate last season for his willingness to do whatever he could to help the team. Cuddyer seems open to having discussions on a contract extension during Spring Training if the Twins want to broach the subject. But once the season opens on April 1, Cuddyer said he would prefer not to have the topic on the table. "I don't think anybody wants to talk about contracts while the season is going on," Cuddyer said. "It's just not good for anybody. It's not good for the organization; it's not good for the player. There hasn't been any dialogue period now. I don't know if there will be in Spring Training. But if there's not, during the season is not a time to have that happen." Although Cuddyer's future might not be decided until after this season, his preference not to negotiate a contract once the regular season has started won't necessarily mean that he's set on exploring the free-agent market. Close is also the agent for Yankees star Derek Jeter and helped the shortstop to work out a deal to return to the Yankees this winter, the only team that Jeter has played for over his career. Cuddyer said if he had his way, he would like to be a one-team player for his entire career as well. "Casey definitely has his player's interests at heart," Cuddyer said. "He knows I love this organization and all things created equal, I want to be here for my whole career, no doubt. I've made no secret about that from Day 1."