Plouffe has warmed to utility role

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 15, 2011 - 12:33 AM

Plouffe initially got the start at first base Thursday but was switched to designated hitter after Jim Thome (sprained toe) asked for another day before returning to the lineup.

Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning Thursday during the Twins' 8-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will be the first to tell you that Trevor Plouffe was less than happy about his game when he left Minneapolis the last time and headed for Class AAA Rochester after struggling for the early part of the season.

So much has changed since then. After batting .313 with 15 home runs in 51 games for Rochester, Plouffe was back with the big-league club Thursday and showed why he was there, going 2-for-4 and smacking a two-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Twins their first lead of the game.

"When he left here, he was not really pumped up about the way he was playing baseball, and he was kind of fighting everything," Gardenhire said. "That's a big part of baseball, confidence. I think he's figured a few things out."

Plouffe initially got the start at first base Thursday but was switched to designated hitter after Jim Thome (sprained toe) asked for another day before returning to the lineup.

Gardenhire said he was happy to have "a chance to work with him a little bit and see where he's at" and seemed eager to play Plouffe at a variety of positions.

Plouffe has played only short and second at the major league level, but he saw time at seven different positions while he was at Rochester (first, second, third, shortstop, left field, right field and designated hitter). He has played just seven games at first in his professional career but could be a big help at a position with Justin Morneau on the disabled list.

Said Plouffe of all the position shuffling: "It's something I wasn't sure about it in the beginning, but as soon as I started doing it, I really liked it. At first I thought it might take away from [offensive production], but when I started to move around out there, I started to have a little fun ... it was kind of like I rediscovered baseball."

Bolstered lineup

Also returning to the lineup was Delmon Young, who batted .290 in nine games in Rochester after returning from a sprained ankle. Young showed his lack of range when he couldn't get to a fly ball that eventually led to a run, but he made up for it at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two doubles.

And now the wait

Denard Span completed his concussion tests Wednesday, and his doctors told him they were pleased with the results. However, he still needs to wait for approval from Major League Baseball before he can start his rehab assignment. Twins trainer Rick McWane said there was no timetable for how long that could take, but Gardenhire said the team hoped once Span stretched out from the weekend, he would be ready to go.

Quick hits

• Scott Baker is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday afternoon. He is expected to start Monday.

• Jason Kubel (sprained left foot) was in the locker room after having a follow-up appointment on Thursday afternoon. He said that it feels a lot better than when he went to Florida and he's itching to get back. "Fort Myers sucks this time of year," he said.

• Morneau (neck) has been cleared for non-baseball activities. McWane estimated it would be another week or so before he can throw or hit.

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