Michael Cuddyer, who established career highs in every offensive category with Minnesota in 2004, has earned the Twins' starting third base job this season. Cuddyer chatted with fans online about the offseason, Spring Training and the 2005 the season.

Michael Cuddyer: Hey everyone. This is Michael Cuddyer. Thanks for logging on and being interested in Twins baseball. Let's get to some of your questions.

Base_Ball_4: What did you do in the offseason to stay in shape?

Cuddyer: This year was a year that I knew I would have an opportunity to play, so I wanted to maintain a healthy weight of around 215 pounds. To be honest with you, I actually went on the South Beach diet and continued working out with a personal trainer back home in Virginia.

mint161b: Michael, now that you know you will be in the lineup regularly, will this help you to relax more offensively and defensively?

Cuddyer: More than helping me relax, it will put me at ease (mentally) knowing that I don't have to hit a home run every time I step up to the plate. Knowing you are in the lineup just makes everything a lot easier, not having to press or worry about anything. I can just let the game come to me.

lmnangel: I have a baseball card with Doug Mientkiewicz's picture but your name and stats? Have you seen one of these cards yet?

Cuddyer: Yes, I have seen one of those cards and I know I am better looking that Doug, so it really offends me that Topps would do something like that, ha, ha. In all seriousness, I have seen it and it is the only card of me that Topps made that year, so I am stuck with Doug's picture on my card.

Base_Ball: Since we haven't had a full season of seeing you bat, can you tell us if you consider yourself more of a power hitter or more of contact hitter? By the way, you have plenty of power on the 2K5 game on the X-Box.

Cuddyer: I need to give some of those X-Box people some props! I guess in the minor leagues I would consider myself a power hitter, but I also take great pride in situational hitting as well. Being able to move runners over, score them from third and so on.

Base_Ball_4: Who was your childhood sports idol? Have you had a chance to meet him/her?

Cuddyer: Don Mattingly was my favorite player growing up and I had a chance to meet him last year, since he is the hitting coach for the Yankees. All I could do was shake his hand. I wish I could have had a chance to speak with him, but being in the playoffs, time wouldn't allow it. Hopefully this year I will get to spend a few minutes with him.

Amy_Kreye: Great game today Michael! What are your thoughts on Michael Restovich going to Tampa Bay? And who do you think will fill the last bench spots?

Cuddyer: Thanks for the compliment on today's game. It's tough to lose a guy like Resto, because he is a great player. On a personal level, he was and will continue to be a great friend of mine. I came up through the organization with him and it was tough today, when he came into the dugout saying that he was going to Tampa Bay. He will have a great opportunity over there, and hopefully he will be able to take advantage of that. As far as the last bench spot goes, it all depends on what the coaches and management feel they need and I can honestly give no opinion or insight as to what those needs are.

thisisbeth: I rather enjoyed your "Cuddyer Diary" last year. Are you planning on doing that again?

Cuddyer: Thank you. I hope to be able to do that again. It all depends on if the fans write in enough and let the appropriate people know that they want me back. I would be more than happy to do that again.

mercery: What do you and the other players do during down time to socialize or to celebrate postgame victories? I have heard stories of Matt LeCroy dancing and singing in the clubhouse, and eating bugs for money.

Cuddyer: Being at the field from 2:30 to 11:00 at night, there is a lot of down time. Players have different ways of filling that time. I personally enjoy playing cards with the guys and watching TV. I used to do magic tricks until everyone got sick of seeing them! Regarding LeCroy, you never know what he is going to do, whether it be a "strip-tease" or an unorthodox pregame meal, he is always going to make somebody laugh.

Base_Ball_3: In your opinion, who is the most inspirational coach?

Cuddyer: I don't know if you would say inspirational or influential, but Al Newman has really been there for me, whether it be believing in me or going out every morning during Spring Training and during the season and working with me at third base and in previous years, every position.

mlb_com_member: Who in the Central Division do you think will give you the best competition?

Cuddyer: I think everybody did things this offseason to improve their team. Cleveland, who last year showed that they know how to play the game with young players, got Kevin Millwood, re-signed Bob Wickman and all those young players have a year of Major League experience under their belts. Detroit, obviously showed vast improvement last year and then they sign Magglio Ordonez and Troy Percival, along with other bullpen help to improve their team. Chicago, who is always tough, totally revamped not only their players, but also their attitude in the way they play the game. You can't leave out a team like Kansas City, who is also going to the youth movement, and could also be very dangerous. But the one thing that we focus on is the Minnesota Twins and what we need to do in order to win ballgames.

Base_Ball: With you being a starter, does that mean that we get less of the Cuddyer Show on MLB Radio?

Cuddyer: No, I am actually going to do the show again with them. I am not sure what day it is going to be, but I had a lot of fun with Billy Sample and Jim Leyritz last year. Hopefully this year I will be able to have more interaction with the fans.

greg116543: What is the biggest difference preparing yourself to play one position as opposed to playing a utility role?

Cuddyer: I think it is a lot harder to prepare yourself in a utility role because you never know where you are going to play or if you are going to play. It takes a lot more time to get your work in at all of those different positions, while at the same time, the mental grind gets tough. Being able to play one position allows you to solely focus on that position and have a sense of security that you are going to be in the lineup the next day.

koskierox: Hi Michael! I was really sad to see Corey Koskie go in the offseason, but the one person I'd want to replace him as our third baseman would be you! I'm very excited to see you as an every day player this year. What are some of your goals for the upcoming season?

Cuddyer: I was really sad to see Koskie leave as well. Like Resto, Koskie is a great friend of mine who really looked out for me my first couple of years. At the same time, it has allowed an opportunity over here for me, and I think the biggest thing that I need to concentrate on, goal-wise, is that I need to remain healthy because this is my first real shot at playing every day. I need to make sure that I can play every day.

mzracing76: How great can the Twins be this year?

ondeck101596: When I was in camp I saw you talking to the legendary Rod Carew quite a bit. What kind of advice did he give you?

Cuddyer: Being in the Twins organization, it opens up doors to be able to speak to some of the legends that played the game -- guys like Rod Carew. We are able to ask and soak up as much knowledge as they want to give, to where not too many players have the chance to get those opportunities. In that particular instance, Rod was helping me early in camp on staying on the ball and finishing through on my swing.

davejb: Mike, this year's team and last year's team are very different in the field. How do you compare the two?

Cuddyer: A lot of people have asked me this question throughout the course of Spring Training and my answer is always the same. The only thing that is new about our infield is the perception from the fans. Nobody in our infield is new to the organization. Nobody is new to the way we do things. We know what's asked of us and we are not afraid of working to improve every aspect of the game.

natemason: Hey Cuddyer, who's your best friend on the Twins?

Cuddyer: There are two guys that I would consider my best friends. One is with the Twins, the other is heading up I-75 to Tampa Bay right now. Matthew LeCroy, Michael Restovich and I were all drafted in the same year and came through the organization at relatively the same rate. I was in both of their weddings and they continue to be a big piece of my life.

Base_Ball_4: What advice would you give to a 10-year-old Twins fan/baseball player?

Cuddyer: Because so many people helped me throughout my life, I feel it is only fitting to give back. With every chance I get, I try to teach and help young kids who aspire to be Major League players. The No. 1 thing that I tell all of them is to continue to love the game. If you have the best swing, the strongest arm or run the fastest, you aren't going to be able to apply any of that, if you don't have fun playing.

George_Restovich: Cuddy, I know Michael Restovich is going to miss you and your friendship. Good luck to you this year, as I know you'll do well. Which leads to my question -- who will hit more home runs this year, you or Michael?

Cuddyer: Hey George! I know this is a tough day for you and the family, along with every one of us in the clubhouse, but there is no way Resto will ever hit more home runs in a single season than me! Ha, ha! In all seriousness, I hope he gets the opportunity that he deserves, and if he does hit more, he will just have to take me out to dinner!

Cuddyer: I want to thank everyone for joining me in this chat this afternoon and continue to root for the Twins. I look forward to doing this again sometime down the road. Take care.