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Updated: August 26th, 2011 5:28pm
Twins' Michael Cuddyer: Jim Thome was a nice guy but he also had fire

Twins' Michael Cuddyer: Jim Thome was a nice guy but he also had fire

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Faced with the reality of being sellers and not buyers, Twins players fielded questions Friday afternoon about the trade of veteran Jim Thome to Cleveland for a player to be named. Thome was dealt on Thursday night after agreeing to waive his no-trade clause.

"It's something new for us," Joe Mauer said before the Twins played host to AL Central-leading Detroit at Target Field. "We've been in the position to buy the last [few] years and this is new and if you ask anybody in here it's not a good new feeling. We've had a rough year and we've got to make changes and do different things to have it better next year."

For now, the Twins must move on without Thome, who was popular with teammate in the clubhouse because of his personality and was popular with fans because of his home run-hitting abilities. Thome reached the 600 home run milestone with the Twins and a red board in center field at Target Field remained in place Friday that displayed the fact Thome has 601 career home runs.

The Twins also followed through with their promotion to give away Thome wind up walkers to the first 10,000 fans who entered the stadium on Friday night.

"He's a great teammate, he's a Hall of Famer and he's a guy that we're going to miss for sure," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "Me personally especially, but it is part of (the business). It's unfortunate but we're lucky to say we played with him for the last two years and witness history."

Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer called Thome a "great teammate" but pointed out the perception of Thome might have been off a bit.

"He was really obviously a nice guy and [that's] been talked about time and time again but he still had fire," said Cuddyer, who spoke with Thome after the trade was made. "The people on other side of the field were still the enemy, which is what I respected more than anything. It wasn't just this ho-hum nice to every single person. He still wanted to beat your (butt) and had some fire. That's what I appreciated a lot."

Manager Ron Gardenhire said he already discussed with Thome the possibility of reuniting in 2012.

"I talked to him about it, going to play somewhere else and then talk to us again during the winter," Gardenhire said. "We'll see what happens with our club, and then see what happens with his thoughts and what he's looking at. Jim wants to win a World Series, and I told him we plan on having a really good baseball team next year. Get everybody healthy and start the season that way. We'll talk over the winter."

Mauer, meanwhile, likened himself to Thome.

"I think the biggest thing is I think we were a lot alike personality wise, kind of quieter guys off the field and things like that, but once the game time starts you get after it pretty good," said Mauer, who was not in the lineup for the third consecutive game because of a sore neck.

"I really enjoyed watching him and he hit some big homers, some big RBI and think I was most impressed when he came over here with how good of at-bats he has day in and day out. I think everybody knows when he's hitting home runs, but he knows how to put together an at-bat given each situation."

Thome became the eighth big-league player to hit 600 home runs when he belted two against the Tigers on Aug. 15 in Detroit.

"To be a part of history and see somebody accomplish a feat like that is pretty much indescribable just cause I couldn't imagine having that many home runs and then for him to be able to do it," Cuddyer said. "And do it in the way that he did, because he couldn't imagine having that many home runs either even though he did, which is pretty cool."

Kubel staying put

Outfielder Jason Kubel, who was claimed on waivers, was not traded by Friday's deadline, meaning he will remain with the Twins.

"I wanted to stay and I'd like to stay," said Kubel, who will be a free agent after this season. "It's one of those things that obviously I have no control over but, yeah, I was a little relieved."

Initial reports Thursday said Kubel had been claimed by the White Sox, but a report Friday said that it was the Indians who made the claim on him.

Cuddyer also will be a free agent, and with the Twins sitting at 55-75 it would not be surprising if he was looking to the future. But Cuddyer said that's not the case.

"No, there's no sense in it right now," he said. "There's 32 games left, you just try and play as well as you can, try and win as many as you can in these 32 games and when the offseason comes around that's when I'll start worrying about what's going to happen."

Nishioka, Mauer out again

Gardenhire's original lineup Friday had Tsuyoshi Nishioka playing shortstop and batting eighth. However, Nishioka ended up being scratched because of a strained oblique muscle that has sidelined him for six games.

Nishioka was replaced by Matt Tolbert in the lineup and Trevor Plouffe was shifted to short. Tolbert started at second base.

"I think I'm at about 80 or 90 percent stage right now," Nishioka said through his interpreter, Ryo Shinkawa. "I think right now (in) my condition if Gardy told me to play I think I am able to play. If there's an emergency situation, I am capable of being out there."

Mauer, meanwhile, sounded cautiously optimistic that he will get back in the lineup soon. He suffered spasms in his neck after chasing a pop up on Tuesday night while playing first base.

"Hopefully soon," Mauer said of his return. "(It's) better. I had a lot of treatment last night and today. I took some swings off the tee so that was definitely good."

Gardenhire said Mauer was available off the bench Friday, if needed.

Liriano MRI

Lefthander Francisco Liriano, who left Thursday's start after two innings because of shoulder strain, underwent an MRI on Friday that showed no significant damage.

Phil Mackey contributed.

 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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