Valencia vows he will be better all around

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 29, 2012 - 8:12 PM

After committing 18 errors last year -- the most for a Twins third baseman since Gary Gaetti made 18 errors in 1990 -- Danny Valencia started his offseason with some homework.

Twins third baseman Danny Valencia had a .949 fielding percentage in 2011, down from .973 during his rookie season of 2010.

Photo: Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

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After committing 18 errors last year -- the most for a Twins third baseman since Gary Gaetti made 18 errors in 1990 -- Danny Valencia started his offseason with some homework.

He studied video of his defense from a camera the Twins station near their dugout.

"I had a couple false steps when I would move [leaving his head out of position]," Valencia said Sunday at TwinsFest. "I also realized I could set up a little earlier and stay lower defensively."

Valencia focused on making these mechanical adjustments and worked to improve his speed and agility.

"There's no doubt in my mind I'm faster," he said. "And I've worked pretty hard to clean it all up. It's not going to be gone right away. It's something you have to work hard at, just like hitting or anything else."

Valencia, 27, also studied video of his at-bats and decided to make a subtle change with his hands. Last year, he would trap his hands toward his body, forcing a longer loop before his swing. Now, he is bringing his hands straight back, giving him a straighter path to the ball.

He led the Twins last year in games played (147) and RBI (72) but also posted a .294 on-base percentage, down from .351 as a rookie in 2010.

"I started trying to do too much, trying to drive the ball out of the park," said Valencia, who hit 15 home runs. "I've never been under .300 in on-base percentage. You'll see a different me this year."

Plouffe ready for outfield

Manager Ron Gardenhire said former shortstop Trevor Plouffe could see time in left field this year, but the manager was careful not to call it a potential platoon with the lefthanded-hitting Ben Revere.

Gardenhire will look for ways to get Plouffe's righthanded bat in the lineup after he hit 23 home runs last year between Class AAA and the majors. The Twins hope Plouffe can blossom the way fellow first-round pick Michael Cuddyer did in 2006, when he moved from third base to right field.

"[Cuddyer] told me he wasn't stressed about playing the infield, and he was able to focus," Plouffe said. "Not only on offense, but it freed up his mind a little bit."

Plouffe, 25, has been practicing in the outfield at Pepperdine, getting himself used to tracking fly balls and line drives off the bat.

"I don't know if it'll be a major transition," Plouffe said. "I felt comfortable [in the outfield last year], and that was something that surprised me when I got thrown out there in Triple-A."

Duensing not picky

When the Twins signed Jason Marquis, it increased the chances that Brian Duensing is heading back to the bullpen. Duensing said he will head to spring training hoping to win the fifth starter's job, but he is happy to relieve if asked.

"If it gives us a chance to get to the World Series, I'll do whatever they ask; I'll hand out towels," said Duensing, who has pitched in 50 career games as a starter and 59 as a reliever. "The only thing I hope is that they make a decision somewhat early [in camp], just for the mental aspect. It'd be nice to be able to focus on one or the other."

Etc.

• During TwinsFest, players took their annual physicals, and the medical staff was encouraged. There were no new red flags. Anthony Swarzak was among those looking especially lean, and fellow righthander Jeff Manship, who had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from his right elbow last August, said his arm felt like new.

• The Twins estimated their three-day attendance at TwinsFest at 30,000, up from about 25,000 last year at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

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