Reusse: Florimon had long journey to majors

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2013 - 12:50 AM

Hitting, once a question mark, has rounded out his game.

Pedro Florimon has a better grip on the Twins’ shortstop job.

Photo: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII • Star Tribune,

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The Twins had seven hitters who were basically helpless against Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma on Friday night. The result was a 3-0 victory that put the Mariners’ record at 14-5 against the Twins since the start of the 2011 season.

Considering the M’s are 56 games under .500 against the rest of Major League Baseball, this is among the numerous embarrassments the Twins have suffered over the past three seasons.

There were two competitive hitters in the home lineup: Chris Parmelee, batting seventh, and Pedro Florimon, batting ninth. Parmelee had a single and double and Florimon had three singles — five of the seven hits allowed by Iwakuma.

The three hits raised Florimon’s average to .269, which is 30-40 points higher than some of us media geniuses expected to see from the 26-year-old Dominican.

Florimon had signed with Baltimore as a 17-year-old in 2004. He didn’t get off the island for two years, playing for the O’s team in the Dominican Summer League [DSL]. He batted .204 and .200. He also made 46 errors in 115 games.

It would seem that somebody coaching or scouting for the Orioles in the Dominican had to do some fancy talking to keep Florimon from getting released.

He did get sent to the States in 2006 and played in the rookie Appalachian League. He hit .333 in 33 games and was moved up to Aberdeen, Md. And then he fell back to .197 and .223 in low-A in 2007 and 2008.

There was no indication that the switch-hitting Florimon had a chance at the plate until 2009, when he batted .288 with nine home runs and 68 RBI as an All-Star in the Class A Carolina League.

After six seasons of pro ball, he was finally a prospect, of sorts. And in 2011, he hit .267 with eight home runs and 60 RBI in Class AA. He made it to the Orioles for eight at-bats in September.

Baltimore put him on waivers in December and the Twins made a claim. He came to spring training in 2012, with not much anticipation that he would make an impression.

Jamey Carroll had been signed to play shortstop, Brian Dozier was on the rise in the farm system, and there still was the Tsuyoshi Nishioka issue to be resolved.

“I saw him in spring training last year, and liked those big hands and the way he moved to the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “His arm strength was good.”

There were suggestions by media types that Florimon appeared to be casual — or, careless — on some routine plays.

“I wouldn’t say it was that,” Gardenhire said. “It was more a case of learning the speed that it takes to play up here.”

Florimon started last season in Class AA, with New Britain. Caleb Thielbar, a lefthanded reliever, was promoted to New Britain on April 30.

“My first game was one of the last Pedro played there,” Thielbar said. “Right away, a guy hits a ball hard in the hole, Pedro flashes over there, backhands it and then, from the edge of the dirt, throws a rocket to first base.”

Thielbar made a throwing gesture to dramatize that and said, “I watched it from the mound and said to myself, ‘That’s one of the best plays I’ve had made for me in my life.”

Florimon was promoted to Class AAA Rochester on May 7, and then in mid-August, the Twins sent back a struggling Dozier and acceded to Gardenhire’s wish to look at Florimon.

He played 43 games, with a modest seven errors, and an equally modest .219 average.

“There were some bumps in the road last year, but he got experience that he needed,” Gardenhire said.

This season, Florimon has been charged with four errors … and none in his past 27 games. On Thursday night, he shut off a Milwaukee rally with a tremendous stop on a hot shot — turning it into a forceout with a quick flip to Dozier on second base.

“He’s holding his own at the plate,” Gardenhire said. “He’s better righthanded, but he’s gotten stronger, and can get the barrel to the ball lefthanded. He has a chance to be our shortstop for a while here.”

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com

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