Former Twin extends hitting streak, finds groove

Published 3:37 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

DENVER — Michael Cuddyer’s scruffy beard keeps sprouting more and more gray. It’s becoming quite scratchy, too.

The Colorado Rockies outfielder wants so badly to take a razor to the whiskers, but that will just have to wait.

For the moment, he doesn’t want to change anything since he’s in such a groove at the plate.

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With his single in the eighth on Sunday, Cuddyer extended his hitting streak to a team-record 27 games. It’s the longest same-season streak in the majors since Atlanta’s Dan Uggla hit in 33 straight two years ago.

Even more, Cuddyer has reached base safely in a franchise-best 46 consecutive contests. The last time he failed to get on base through a hit, walk or being plunked by a pitch was April 21, back when there was still a chill in the air.

Since then, there’s really been no chilling his bat. Ask Cuddyer the reason for his recent scorching success at the plate, though, and he will just shrug.

“It’s one day at a time, one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time,” said the 34-year-old Cuddyer, who will try to extend his streak on Tuesday when the Rockies host the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game series.

That simple?

“Yep,” he said. “Look, you’re doing your homework, you’re getting your work in. You’re not going up there blind, like you do in a little league game. You still have to put your work in to hit these guys.

“But this is definitely fun.”

Before the season, first-year manager Walt Weiss didn’t know all that much about Cuddyer. It hasn’t taken him long to appreciate his slugger’s patient approach in the batter’s box.

“He’s a very smart hitter,” Weiss said. “He’s very good at thinking along with the pitcher.”

Especially now, in the midst of this streak. Cuddyer is hitting .372 during the stretch, bumping his average to .344, which is quite a bit higher than his career mark (.271).

“This is a good feeling,” said Cuddyer, who broke hitting coach and former Rockies standout Dante Bichette’s team-best hitting streak of 23 games. “Anytime you can put your name in any type of record book for a good thing is a good thing.”

Like many baseball players, Cuddyer is all about routine. He arrives at the ball park about the same time each day, goes through the same pregame rituals. A typical game day for Cuddyer starts with a quick bite to eat inside the clubhouse (but not necessarily the same meal).

After a visit to the hot tub, he heads for the cages to smack about 40 baseballs off a hitting tee in various positions of the strike zone.

Then it’s even more hitting as he goes through round after round of batting practice. About 50 minutes prior to first pitch, he will hit the hot tub again.

Only then is he ready to go about his business of bashing baseballs.

His streak started on May 28 with a double to center off Houston starter Jordan Lyles. From there, the hits just kept on falling for Cuddyer, usually early in games, too. More than half of the time he prolonged his streak on his first at-bat of the game.

On Sunday, Cuddyer waited a bit longer, lining a single in the eighth off reliever Sandy Rosario after going 0-for-3 against starter Madison Bumgarner.

“I squeaked one up the middle,” Cuddyer explained.

It’s been that kind of season for Cuddyer, who’s seeing plenty of juicy pitches with Carlos Gonzalez batting ahead of him. Cuddyer has moved up in the order with Troy Tulowitzki out because of a broken rib.

“(Cuddyer) is a very good hitter, gives me good protection,” Gonzalez said. “I’m pulling for him. I want him to keep the streak alive.”

The streak hasn’t really received all that much national fanfare, something that Weiss just can’t understand because, “It isn’t easy to keep the streak alive in this league.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has certainly taken notice.

“You have to be really good to run off a streak like that,” Bochy said. “If you look at his numbers he’s done a lot of damage in this streak, too. He’s a great hitter. You appreciate a guy that can do something like he’s doing right now, to run off a streak like that.”

Cuddyer has accomplished this through an array of bumps and bruises. He missed time earlier in the season when an inflamed cervical disk landed him on the disabled list.

He has missed some games during his streak, too, sitting out several contests after hurting his ribs following an awkward tumble at first base against San Diego on June 6. That was after hitting in 10 straight games.

Once his ribs were healed, Cuddyer quickly found his rhythm and picked up where he left off.

“You go through a streak and you’re feeling good, get some lucky hits, too,” said Cuddyer, who spent 11 seasons with the Minnesota Twins before signing a three-year deal with Colorado on Dec. 20, 2011. “I go up there and try to put together a good at-bat. I’m trying to focus on every single pitch, every single at-bat. I’m trying not to look too far in advance.”