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Continued: Pressure is on Plouffe to produce

“What we have seen are the ups and downs,” Gardenhire said. “Now we’ve got to get consistent. Hopefully you get to that 1,000-to-1,500 at-bat range you start to see that consistency. He’s got the talent. He’s got the tools. We know he can hit a baseball. Now can he do it on an everyday basis in the big leagues and play defensively enough to warrant that.”

If Plouffe can’t, the Twins could look at other options, starting in 2014.

• • •

Sano is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He tore up the Florida State League this season, batting .330 with 16 homers and 48 RBI in 56 games before being promoted to Class AA New Britain last week. His defense at third has been scrutinized, but the Twins believe the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Sano can handle the position.

Some members of the organization believe Sano’s bat is about ready for the majors, and there have been indications that the club isn’t afraid to give him a shot next season.

That would give Plouffe just over a half-season to prove he is the long-term answer at third base.

“I know he’s a great player and we welcome all great players,” Plouffe said of Sano. “We want to be a better team. If he’s the guy who is going to come up and help us, so be it. We want to win.

“I’m at third base right now and feel comfortable there as long as I continue to improve. I’ve switched positions before. If I have to switch positions again, it’s no big deal to me. My job is not to worry about that.”

Another third baseman, Deibinson Romero, is batting .296 with four homers and 13 RBI in 22 games at Class AAA Rochester. Romero’s season is just getting started because of a visa-related delays in leaving his home in the Dominican Republic.

There are other third-base options not far away, suggesting that Plouffe needs to turn it on before the future becomes the present. Like Ryan told him over the phone, he wants to see Plouffe produce.

“I just show up and work as hard and I can and play the game,” Plouffe said. “If I continue to improve, I’ll be playing somewhere. I want to be playing here. I love the organization and I think we have a pretty good relationship.”

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