Kubel hopes big game ends cold stretch

Kubel hopes big game ends cold stretch

MINNEAPOLIS -- After hitting two home runs against the Yankees on Thursday night, it seems Jason Kubel's struggles at the plate are finally turning around.

Since May 16 -- a span of 10 games -- Kubel has recorded nine hits and 16 RBIs, entering Friday's series opener against the Rangers. Three of those hits and five RBIs came in Thursday's game alone. Kubel also struck out 10 times in that span.

While he said he hasn't been doing anything differently at the plate, Kubel did say having a big game will help him mentally on the field.

"I feel better already," Kubel said. "That's all it takes is one good game to get a good feeling. I hope it sticks around for a while, and I hope I can go out and have that same feeling tonight. We'll find out soon."

Kubel said he felt like a "big load" was taken off his back with his performance Thursday night and felt more comfortable and relaxed heading into the three-game set with Texas.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Kubel is someone who is hard on himself, and this added confidence should help him out on the field.

"After a night like last night, he's going to go out there full of confidence, and we'll see what happens," Gardenhire said. "Confidence is a snowball effect, and you feel better."

Kubel started in left field Friday for the second consecutive game. Gardenhire tweaked his lineup slightly before Thursday's 8-2 win over the Yankees, slotting designated hitter Jim Thome in the fifth spot behind Justin Morneau and moving Michael Cuddyer to the sixth spot. The move was to give Morneau a little more protection behind him with another left-handed hitter, and Thome was in the same spot for Friday's contest against right-hander Colby Lewis.

The lineup was designed solely to compensate against a right-handed pitcher and to get protection behind Morneau. And if Kubel continues to get hot at the plate, he may get moved up to that fifth spot where Thome's batting -- a space that he occupied for much of last year.

"I want Kubel in the lineup," Gardenhire said. "I know we're going to need him. The big thing is to get Kubel going along with the other guys. That's a big part of our offense."