Which Jason is right (field) for Twins: Kubel or Repko?
Ron Gardenhire has made it clear in recent days that the Twins won't take the foot off the pedal while pursuing the league's top record and the home field advantage throughout that comes with said achievement.
But what is becoming cloudy is which right field option, Jason Kubel or Jason Repko, will ultimately provide the club the most gas in this final stretch that segues to the ALDS.
The quick answer to the debate is Kubel, who's second on the club in both Home Runs (19) and RBI (85). But when rubber meets road, I'm starting to feel that the other Jason may actually prove the smarter play.
After knocking 48 home runs and collecting 181 RBI over the past two seasons, Kubel has proven inconsistent in 2010, claiming just one month of over 20 RBI (23 in August) and a lone month of hitting better than .263 (.316 in June). Since being hit on the left wrist by Detroit's Phil Coke on the final day of August, he's yet to rediscover any sort of hitting vibe, as evidenced by a mere. 200 average and .311 Slugging mark in 11 September games. But really, such low productions doesn't deviate much from Kubel's overall second-half numbers. Since the Break, he hit just .235 with 36 RBI. For his last 20 games, the numbers look really sour: .197 average, with just one HR, 4 RBI and 17 strikeouts.
Enter Jason Repko, a first round draft pick of the Dodgers back in 1999 who's the veteran of over 800 minor league games. A late spring signee of the Twins, Repko came to the big club from Rochester in late June and promptly earned his keep with a 9-for-29 July (.310) that bested his (present) career average by nearly 100 points. Since then, he's come back to turf with offensive marks that relate to Kubel's recent struggles with the wood and more closely resemble his own career line. For August and September, Repko's hit just .174.
But this isn't a guy known for a big bat. It's Repko's exceptional glove that has kept him in
baseball. Based on the Twins 21-8 record in games he's started, a case can now be made for penciling his name into the starting lineup for whomever the Boys meet in the ALDS. In 30 games in right, the guy has proven a perennial highlight reel, while charting five assists and committing nary an error.
"I think through my career that's one of the things guys have said most," Repko said when asked about his defensive acumen post the Twins 5-1 win over Cleveland on Wednesday. "When I come into a game, I feel my job is to help the team win in any way. Defensively, offensively, on the base paths. But, yeah, defensive has definitely always been one of the things that has helped me get to where I am."
With just two weeks before the postseason begins, Repko's verse is pure Twin when talking about his chances of starting in the Divisional Series.
"I haven't even thought about it," he added. "Who knows how it's going to play out? I think we've gotta finish these 10 games out real solid and keep pushing, let that roll into the playoffs and not miss a beat.
"I'm prepared for wherever Gardy wants to use me as," Repko said of his readiness. "I just want to do my job, wherever chance it may be: coming off the bench, pinch running, late defense. I get my mind right for whatever situation it might be. So once it gets narrowed down to the playoff time, it will be a little easier to prepare for what the situations might be."
While Kubel is indeed an underrated defensive player, there's little argument that Repko owns superior leather. What may further impede Kubel's chances of starting is a poor showing in the respective postseasons of 2004 and '09. In five games against the Yankees in said combined series, he's a mere 2-for-21 (.095) with no home runs, no RBI, no walks and 11 K's. Adding to the Kubel-less argument: should the Twins indeed face Tampa, he's a measured .263 (15-for-57, two HR's) lifetime against their present staff.
Per Repko, the soon-to-be 30-year-old has just a lone playoff experience to date: a 9th inning, pinch run entry in Game 1 of the Dodger's loss to the Mets in 2006 NLDS. Although he was sent to the Dodger's instructional league as a playoff alternate the past two seasons, it's obvious that his experience of four years back made an impression.
"The magnitude of the game . . " Repko remarked with both pause and awe. "You roll in there and from the first pitch of the ballgame it honestly feels like it's the last pitch. From the very get-go, it's very intense."
It's my guess that Jason Kubel has 10 games to find his swing. If he stays cool, look for the "other" Jason to bring that defensive intensity to the Twins lineup come the ALDS. Between little hit/good glove and no hit/great glove, I'll take the latter every time come the pressures of playoff baseball.
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