Cuddyer credits spring prep work for 2013 honors
Outfielder adds first career Silver Slugger Award to first NL batting championship
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer credited systematic preparation for a 2013 season that saw him win his first National League batting title and this week be presented with his first Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award.
"I talked with Dante [Bichette, the Rockies' hitting coach] in spring. My progression through spring was as good as it has ever been," Cuddyer said. "The first couple of weeks, I was hitting the ball to right field. The next couple of weeks, I was hitting it to center field. Then the last couple of weeks, I was pulling inside pitches and using the whole field. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the season."
The results of that confidence include a .331 batting average, 20 home runs, 84 RBIs and 31 doubles. Cuddyer was named along with the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen and the Reds' Jay Bruce as Silver Slugger Award winners among NL outfielders.
Cuddyer's Silver Slugger adds to the Rockies' impressive 2013 awards list. Third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez won Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was a finalist for the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger, and catcher Wilin Rosario also was a Silver Slugger finalist. All this comes despite the fact the Rockies -- under first-year manager Walt Weiss -- went 74-88 for their second straight last-place finish in the NL West.
The acknowledgements lead Cuddyer, 34, to believe a turnaround can be quick.
"The talent is there," said Cuddyer, who, depending upon whom the Rockies acquire during the offseason, could find himself playing more first base than right field next season. "You see all the accolades on the offensive side and the defensive side, and you mix in the seasons of [pitchers] Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin, and that's a great core.
"Add a couple of pieces and we can be good. Rex [Brothers] showed he could be a closer, and if you go out and get one, Rex can pitch the eighth, so that's versatility. Things need to happen on the back side of the rotation, which was a huge disappointment for us, safe to say. We didn't get too many wins from our four and five starters."
Cuddyer signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Rockies before the 2012 season, but an oblique injury during the second half of '12 limited him to 101 games and a .260 batting average with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs. In 2013, he dealt with various injuries -- a recurrence of an old neck injury, a rib injury that cost him 14 games in May, an illness that cost him a couple of games and a sprained left wrist that he played through at the end of the year. However, all of those were the types of accidents and occurrences that happen over 162 games, and none of those injuries were the chronic type of ailments that reduced effectiveness or forced him off the field for long periods.
The best season of Cuddyer's career in terms of OPS (.919) occurred at an advanced age. But, in perspective, it was the third time in six years he hit at least 20 home runs, and the fourth time in five years he's had at least 30 doubles, so he doesn't believe age will be a factor in 2014.
"When you've gotten a few weeks removed from the season, you look back and realize how special it was on an individual basis," Cuddyer said. "Age doesn't matter. The fact you win a batting title and win a Silver Slugger at any point in your career is pretty special and exciting."