Don't discount the former shortstop's stronger arm and bat winning the job over Ben Revere.
FORT MYERS, FLA. — I would criticize the Twins' presumed starting outfield alignment, but that might be a waste of time, because I'm not sure the presumption is correct.
We've assumed all winter that Ben Revere would start in left, Denard Span would start in center, and Josh Willingham would start in right, with Trevor Plouffe becoming a bench player.
The Twins have suggested this alignment, and defended it even when people like me suggest that all three outfielders would be playing out of position.
Span's best position is right field, where he played brilliantly in 2008. Willingham's best position is left field, where he has played exclusively the past two years. Revere's best position is center field, where his range and fearlessness make him valuable despite his lack of power and arm strength.
It hasn't taken long in the Twins' spring training camp to discover that the alignment of those three players might not be all that important. There are those in the organization who believe that Trevor Plouffe will win a starting job, or will at least be given every opportunity to beat out Revere.
Plouffe would give the Twins a righthanded bat with power potential near the bottom of the order, balancing a lineup with many lefties. He would play in right field, which would allow manager Ron Gardenhire to move Willingham to his true position, left field.
If Plouffe won the starting job, Revere would be an ideal fourth outfielder. He'd be the perfect defensive replacement, and he could pinch-hit or pinch-run.
Revere is fast, but, despite public perception, Gardenhire prefers home-run hitters to slap-and-run artists, and the field staff has taken note of some of the power-hitting displays Plouffe has put on during camp. Plouffe looks stronger this year and should benefit from his move away from shortstop, where he had trouble making routine plays last season.
Gardenhire has Plouffe batting eighth Saturday, when the Twins open their Grapefruit League schedule against Tampa Bay at Hammond Stadium. Maybe he's playing Plouffe because he doesn't want Revere to face a tough lefty in David Price. But I'm hearing that Gardenhire would like this to be his Opening Day lineup, if everyone stays healthy and Plouffe performs well this spring:
Denard Span, CF; Jamey Carroll, SS; Joe Mauer, C; Justin Morneau, 1B; Josh Willingham, RF; Ryan Doumit, DH; Danny Valencia, 3B; Trevor Plouffe, LF; Alexi Casilla, SS.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan invoked the Twins' traditional pecking order when discussing the competition.
''I don't think the lineup [Saturday] means much, but I don't want to put out there that Trevor doesn't have a chance to win an everyday job,'' Ryan said. ''That position out there, we've got to get production. We didn't score runs last year. We're coming in here with an open mind.
''I would say that Revere is the frontrunner because of what he did last year, but we all watch. We all know that Plouffe can drive balls, and that he can throw, and that he can run enough. Let's open up that competition and see how it goes.
''One or the other, I don't think anyone has a preference. They're very different types of players, different as you can get. We're going to anxiously watch. I hope it is a good battle, and I hope they both have good springs, so we have good options.''
Plouffe has two major advantages over Revere: the ability to hit the ball with authority, and the ability to throw it with authority. Revere has strengthened his arm but still struggles to get the ball to the cutoff man with any velocity. Plouffe, the former shortstop, has a much stronger arm.
If everyone is healthy, there will be no competition for starting jobs in the everyday lineup, except for the one between Plouffe and Revere.
Revere will be given a chance to win the job, but the smart money might be on Plouffe.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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