Plouffe will get his playing time; what will he do with it?

He has pop in his bat, but the Twins want to see fewer errors on his throws.


Twins infielder Trevor Plouffe

Photo: Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune file

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CLEVELAND - There wasn't a flight available that would have gotten Trevor Plouffe from Rochester, N.Y., to Cleveland in time for Sunday's game. So the Twins arranged for Plouffe to be driven into town.

"Four hours in the back of a limo van and just hung out," Plouffe said. "Had a nice dinner with the driver at Burger King, and I was ready to go."

Hopefully Plouffe is ready to drive some baseballs out of the park -- because he's going to get his chance.

Plouffe was called up to replace injured infielder Alexi Casilla, so it makes sense for Plouffe to get some starts at second base. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Plouffe also could play shortstop or one of the corner outfield spots over the next few weeks.

The key is that Plouffe, 25, is not back in the majors to come off the Twins bench.

Those of you clamoring to see him in the lineup for stretches at a time are about to be satisfied. Gardenhire wants to see what Plouffe can do, and said before and after Sunday's rainout he is committed to putting the prospect with pop in the lineup.

"The reason we sent him down was to get at-bats out there every day and play defense every day," Gardenhire said. "With Lexi down, we are going to need him back up here. Good for him. I didn't want to send him down in the first place. I wanted to see his bat. This works out for him. He'll get a little more playing time a little more consistently for sure."

Plouffe started at second base Sunday and struck out in his only at-bat before rain washed out the game. He is batting .202 with five homers and 16 RBI in 38 games with the Twins. He can drive a baseball, with three doubles and two homers among his past 11 hits in the majors. The problem has been getting more hits, and Plouffe should benefit from more consistent playing time.

Defense has kept Plouffe off the field. He has been charged with three errors at short and one at second. Most of the problems have been with his throws. A May 29 game stands out in which he was charged with one error, but actually made three poor throws.

The Twins aren't in the business of having players drive in runs only to give them back with their defense, so his playing time has some conditions.

"I'm committed [to playing him] unless he misses the ball," Gardenhire said. "I'm joking. Will you guys relax?"

Seriously, the Twins have been working with Plouffe on his throws.

"When we were at home, we were doing a little work with him getting on top of the ball rather than getting off to the side of the ball," Gardenhire said. "The ball was coming out of his hand really well."

The Twins should give Plouffe as much playing time as he deserves to see if he can hit as he did for Class AAA Rochester, where his .313 average, 15 homers and 33 RBI in 51 games stood out. Former Twins slugger Chili Davis, the hitting coach at Pawtucket, told Gardenhire that Plouffe was one of the best hitters in the International League this year.

So Plouffe should be on the field -- unless his throws land in the camera well behind first base. He should play at second, where he is more of an offensive threat than Matt Tolbert. He should play some at short, where Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been a disappointment. He should play some at third if Gardenhire isn't satisfied with Danny Valencia.

The team isn't making the playoffs, giving the manager the opportunity to evaluate other players such as Plouffe. And there are going to be more injuries. The title sponsor for the Twins' season should have been "General Hospital" because it's been a soap opera at times and an infirmary all year long.

So Plouffe is set to get more at-bats. It's up to him to make the most of them.

"It's encouraging to have Gardy say stuff like that," Plouffe said. "Obviously, it's nice to have a manager who supports you and he does. Whatever opportunities arise, I look to capitalize on them."

La Velle E. Neal III •

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