Veteran Kubel quietly fitting in with D-backs
Gibson welcomes newcomer's presence to crowded outfield
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's no question Jason Kubel is a quiet individual.
That's just fine by the D-backs, who are counting on Kubel's bat making plenty of noise in their lineup.
The D-backs surprised fans and even the majority of their clubhouse when they signed Kubel to a two-year, $16 million deal in December to play left field.
After all, the team did have two outfielders in Chris Young and Justin Upton who play nearly every game. Add to that the presence of Gerardo Parra, who played left field so well in 2011 he won a Gold Glove for his efforts.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said the team could not pass up the opportunity to add a bat of Kubel's caliber to the lineup and it will find a way to get Parra enough at-bats.
A change of scenery is in and of itself a different experience for Kubel, who was drafted by the Twins in 2000 and had worn only their uniform for eight big league seasons.
"It's kind of the same philosophy over here and a great group of guys," Kubel said. "So I haven't felt out of place at all. It's been fun, everyone's been really nice."
D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Kubel's background with the Twins, who are known in baseball circles for playing good fundamental baseball, meant something to the D-backs when they looked at bringing the 29-year-old to Arizona.
"I would say it's about keeping your head in the game," Kubel said of the way the Twins play. "You're going to make physical mistakes, but you want to cut down on the mental ones. You want to know where you're going to throw the ball and be well prepared."
The outfield of Parra, Young and Upton was a tight-knit group, but Kubel seems to be fitting in.
"He's done a great job jelling with the outfielders," Upton said. "He's a good clubhouse guy and he goes about his work the right way. Those are the type of guys we want to be around and that we want in our clubhouse. He's been great."
Kubel's offense has drawn praise throughout his career, but there have been questions about his defensive ability as the advanced defensive metrics show him to be below average.
Gibson, though, made it clear early in camp that he was going to defend his outfielder's defense.
"I'm not sure how to explain how people get labeled," Gibson said. "I know Kubel makes us a better team. He does things that make us a better team. We're very excited to have him. He'll be just fine out there. I guarantee you he's a heck of a lot better outfielder than I was and I was a champion two times. I was brutal, but I found a way to get it done and that's what we're looking for. We're not looking for sexy, we're looking for results."
Said Kubel, "I got labeled as a DH, that's all it is. That was their way to get me in the lineup. I didn't like it, but that's the way it goes. I'm not the fastest guy, but I make the plays, I get good jumps, take the right routes, throw the ball to the right bases."
The tricky part for Gibson will be trying to find enough at-bats for all his outfielders. For now, though, Gibson maintains it will not be that difficult.
Last season, Young played through a thumb injury that hampered him at the plate. Should something like that occur in 2012, Parra would be able to help out.
"It's not time for that right now," Gibson said when asked how the playing time would work out. "I'm going to sit and watch Spring Training and see what happens and at the end here we're going to try and play the 25 guys and prepare our organization to try and win a World Series. If you're doing what you think is right for the team and you put that first there's tough decisions to make, but it's not tough to do something that you might construe as uncomfortable. Everyone will understand what we're trying to do. Those guys are all quality individuals. I don't look at it as tough. I look at it as one heck of a strength for us."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.