FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Twins right fielder Max Kepler didn’t get to watch a lot of major league baseball growing up in Germany. The games he did did see included many Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees matchups, which caused him to become a big fan of Derek Jeter.
“I loved watching Jeter, even though I’m a lefty and the complete opposite of what he was,” Kepler said Tuesday before Minnesota’s second full-squad workout. “He was the guy I really looked up to.”
The 27-year-old Kepler never played against the Yankees shortstop but learned from afar by watching how Jeter handled himself on the field.
“He was in the league for plenty of seasons and had countless awards and recognitions,” Kepler said. “He would go out there every year and play as if he was a rookie fighting for his job, which impressed me.”
Kepler hopes that he’ll learn what it takes to establish a lengthy career.
“To keep that type of consistency is tough because you can get full of your success, any success,” Kepler said. “I’ve been in the league four years and I can get full of myself here and there and have to remind myself none of this is a given, and I have to give it my all every day. He showed that, even to a 14, 13-year-old kid that doesn’t understand most things about that. He went out there every day and was getting after it.”
At the beginning of last spring training, the Twins gave five-year contracts to Kepler and to shortstop Jorge Polanco. The Twins went on to win their first AL Central title since 2010.
Kepler’s contract was worth $35 million and includes an option that could increase its value to at least $44 million over six years. He hit .252 with 36 homers and 90 RBIs and has 92 career homers in just short of 2,000 at-bats with a .238 average.
He wants to lead by example, just like the former Yankees captain.
“I wouldn’t consider myself the most vocal player. I want to lead through actions, do the most for this team to win ballgames and try to lead that way,” Kepler said. “Jeter’s a different level. He’s one of the biggest leaders in the game of baseball, in my opinion. To step into his footsteps would be, in my eyes, impossible because he’s one of the best that’s ever played the game.”
Miguel Sanó has a new contract and a new mitt.
The slugger agreed to a $30 million, three-year deal in January and was told he was moving from third to first after the club signed free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to a $92 million, four-year contract.
“They’re giving me an opportunity to play every day at another position,” Sanó said. “I started working as soon as they told me.”
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