ANAHEIM, CALIF. — When Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe played in Anaheim earlier this year, his family and friends were in the stands as he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in the first game of a three-game series. He didn't play in the remaining two games.
"It was my first time playing in California since 2004," he said, "and I had a bunch of people watching me. That's when I didn't know if I was going to be in the lineup or not. And I struggled that first game, then I didn't play. It wasn't like the best homecoming for me."
The major league schedule, however, did Plouffe a favor. The Twins are back in California exactly one month later. Plouffe is more sure of himself. And, for now, he is assured of consistent playing time -- which happens when you can stay healthy on a team on which the injury days accumulate rapidly.
Plouffe's parents, Diane and Warren, were among a group of about 20 supporters Friday at Angel Stadium. Their son played solid second base and he got the Twins off to a 1-0 lead with a first-inning homer, his seventh of the season, in a game they eventually won 13-5.
He followed that by getting two hits off Angels ace Jered Weaver on Saturday, an RBI single in the second inning and a three-run double to tie the score in the fourth. It wasn't enough for a Twins victory, as Los Angeles scored four runs off reliever Phil Dumatrait and went on to win 10-6.
But this is Plouffe's third tour with the Twins this season, and it's looking like his best. Since being called up Aug. 14, he is batting .316 over 19 games, with two homers and seven RBI. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pledged to give Plouffe more playing time, and that has happened.
"No matter where I put him out there, he's comfortable, he's swinging the bat good," Gardenhire said. "He's concentrating on both sides of the ball and has been working hard."
Plouffe has played second, shortstop and both corner outfield spots. He was drafted as a shortstop in 2004 when he was taken with the 20th overall pick out of Crespi Carmelite (Calif.) High School, less than two hours from where the Twins are playing this weekend.
This third go-round is different for him. He is more comfortable. He understands the importance of being flexible. He knows he needs to work on his throwing, which has led to most of the five errors he has made in 57 games. Consistent playing time has enabled him to get into a groove at the plate.
"I feel like I've gotten into a decent routine where I could see where I am in the lineup and then react to that," said Plouffe, who is hitting .381 on the Twins' six-game road trip that ends Sunday. "So I have to come to the field prepared to move around and I like that. As far as the offensive side, I feel like I'm getting more reps and realize that I can hit here and that I belong here. I think that's half the battle.
"You think it is going to come easy. You can just tell yourself, 'I belong here.' But for me it didn't work that way. So, the more plate appearances I get and more games under my belt, I feel that has made the confidence I have in the offensive side of the game rise."
Gardenhire has noticed the increased confidence as Plouffe makes a case to be considered for a starting position in 2012.
"I think he's at the point where he enjoys being in the lineup and gets some at-bats and he'll do whatever it takes defensively," Gardenhire said. "He just likes to play and hit."
Especially this weekend, as he gets a second chance in front of family and friends.
"This time," Plouffe said, "I kind of took a step back and said, 'This is great. Southern California, the most beautiful place in the world. I've got my friends and family here and I'm in the big leagues. It's a win-win situation.' "