Fill-in middle infielders make most of their time

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2011 - 6:36 AM

Trevor Plouffe's and Luke Hughes' days as the Twins middle-infield combination are numbered, but they're making the most of their recent playing time.

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Luke Hughes (38)

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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Trevor Plouffe's and Luke Hughes' days as the Twins middle-infield combination are numbered, but they're making the most of their recent playing time.

Hughes had two homers and five RBI Sunday, as the Twins ended a seven-game losing streak with an 11-4 victory over the Tigers in front of the 57th announced sellout crowd of the season at Target Field.

Plouffe had two more hits and batted .333 (15-for-42) over an 11-game homestand that included few other bright spots, as the Twins went 2-9.

Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka (strained oblique muscle) and second baseman Alexi Casilla (strained hamstring) could return to the lineup this week, so manager Ron Gardenhire will have to find other spots for Plouffe and Hughes to get at-bats.

"When they're not playing every day, they put pressure on themselves, and that's the norm for kids who get up there," Gardenhire said. "They're getting out right now, they're having some fun and they're swinging. Plouffe has really been swinging the bat good and running around the bases."

Over the past two days, Hughes has three home runs and eight RBI, including a homer and a two-run double Saturday off Justin Verlander. Hughes, who led the Twins with six homers this spring, said they've always come in bunches.

"Normally I hit one, probably hit another one right after that," he said. "Then it kind of disappears for a while."

Duensing delivers, finally

Brian Duensing was 0-5 with an 8.65 ERA in five August starts before holding Detroit to four runs (three earned) over six innings Sunday. He allowed seven hits and three walks but got the Tigers to hit into three double plays.

"It was obviously a better outing than I've had in a while," Duensing said. "I made some good pitches when I needed to, a little shaky here and there but definitely a step in the right direction."

Catching help arrives

Joe Mauer, who's missed the past five games because of a sore neck, felt better Sunday and told Gardenhire he should be ready to catch Monday or Tuesday.

Rene Rivera arrived from Class AAA Rochester and started at catcher Sunday. To make room on the roster, the Twins sent infielder Matt Tolbert to Rochester.

Later, a fan in the club level at Target Field was spotted wearing a blue Twins jersey with the No. 7 and the words "General Soreness" written on tape over the name.

Cuddyer watches storm

After getting drilled with a pitch in the left wrist Wednesday, Cuddyer played the next two days but sat the final two games of the Tigers series. He said he'll be back in the lineup Monday and doesn't expect the wrist to bother him again.

All weekend, Cuddyer checked for updates on Hurricane Irene, since he owns houses in southeast Virginia and along the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Cuddyer's father checked on the Virginia home and said there were no issues, other than some water in the garage. Cuddyer had no update on the North Carolina home, which he rents out this time of year, since nobody was allowed into the area.

"I was glued to the TV for the last 36 hours," Cuddyer said. "They got 27 hours of tropical storm weather."

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