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Thursday, January 29, 2009
Kubel and Twins agree to 2-year contract

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Now that his immediate financial future is settled, Jason Kubel can enter spring training focused on hitting.

And that's exactly what he wants.

Kubel and the Minnesota Twins agreed to a $7.2 million, two-year contract on Thursday, avoiding salary arbitration. The designated hitter gets $2.75 million this year and $4.1 million in 2010. The Twins have a $5.25 million option for 2011 with a $350,000 buyout.

"Me and my family are very excited just to know that I'm going to be here for the next couple of years," Kubel said in a phone interview from Twins Winter Caravan. "It's just nice that I won't have to worry about that stuff this year."

The 26-year-old Kubel batted .272 with 20 home runs, 78 RBIs and 22 doubles in 141 games last season. Most of his time was spent at DH, but he also played right and left field. He was second on the team in homers and third in RBIs, with career highs in both categories.

"I know those were the best numbers I have had so far, but I know I can do a lot better than that," Kubel said.

The Twins will enter spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., next month with a logjam in the outfield that includes Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young.

Provided everyone stays healthy and the Twins keep Cuddyer in right field, Kubel likely will spend even more time at DH this season. He was a prized prospect in the organization when he sustained a major left knee injury while playing winter ball in 2004.

Kubel missed the entire 2005 season and has been gradually working his way back to the power hitter the team envisioned. It has taken him some time to get accustomed to not playing in the outfield, but Kubel said "as long as I get to swing a bat, I'm happy."

"It took me a while to get adjusted," Kubel said. "I feel a lot more comfortable about it now and I'm just looking forward to putting up better and better numbers."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire initially used the left-handed hitting Kubel as a DH only against right-handed pitching, but showed more faith in him against lefties as last season wore on. Kubel also set career highs in games, at-bats, hits and walks.

"Jason has developed into an important member of our club and we were happy to get this deal done," general manager Bill Smith said in a statement. "Last year he provided improved power and run production in the middle of the lineup. He is a good fit in our clubhouse and we look forward to his continued development as a hitter."

Kubel, who made $1,312,500 last season, had asked for $3.4 million in arbitration and was offered $2.4 million by the team. In 2010, he can earn $150,000 in performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 550, 600 and 650 plate appearances.

Matt Guerrier is the only Twins player remaining in arbitration. The reliever requested $1.75 million while the club offered $1.2 million.

Next year, the list potentially grows much, much larger. As it stands now, the Twins could have 11 players eligible for arbitration after next season, including Gomez, Young and lefty Francisco Liriano.

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AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.