The addition of Paul Molitor to the Twins coaching staff has already paid some dividends, with third baseman Trevor Plouffe crediting the Hall of Famer as a big reason for his great improvement as a fielder.
“Absolutely, he has been the guy that I worked with all throughout spring. I definitely will continue to do that throughout the season,” said Plouffe, who has only two errors this season. “These day games have made it tough to get the extra work that we need because we’re not really on the field too much. But he’s a guy that I can look to. I would say he and [utility infielder Jason] Bartlett have really helped me out a lot.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire recently said Plouffe has improved in all aspects of his game.
“He’s swinging the bat very well, been very confident,” Gardenhire said. “He’s done a fantastic job for us … just more experience. The longer you play, you should get better at it. More experience and he’s more comfortable with himself. It’s getting there, he’s worked very hard on it.
“There’s going to be some things he can’t do and he just has to understand that and kind of compensate for those things. Plouffe has worked really hard on all parts of his game and he’s a better player for it.”
Following the Twins’ 7-0 victory over the Blue Jays in the first game of their doubleheader Thursday, Plouffe was tied for eighth in the American League in RBI with 11, tied for seventh in runs scored with 11 and tied for 10th in walks with nine. He then drew another walk as a pinch hitter in the nightcap, one of eight in the eighth inning for the Twins in their 9-5 comeback victory.
Those 10 walks have to be the biggest offensive improvement for Plouffe. He averaged 35.5 walks per season over the past two years. If he keeps up his current pace, he will destroy that mark.
The other big change in Plouffe’s game is going from having some power — he had 24 home runs in 2012 and 14 last season, with 22 doubles — to also being able to hit for average. He is a career .243 hitter, but this season he is at .309 through 15 games. Those walks should help increase his average as opposing pitchers have to pitch to contact.
Plouffe says he is getting more confident and hoping his improvement will continue.
“I’m working hard on it. It’s still a work in progress and I’m going to continue to keep getting better,” he said. “Every year you should get a little more confident, a little more mature. You understand how the game is played at the big-league level, start to know the pitchers a little bit more. I’m definitely feeling confident.”
Plouffe said he also had an offseason program that included gaining weight.
“What didn’t I work on in the offseason? I worked on everything,” he said. “I definitely focused on putting some weight on. They wanted me to come back 10 pounds heavier, so I did that. A lot of my baseball work came in spring training. I got down there early and, like I said, worked with Molitor and Bartlett and [Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky]. I am turning into a man, I guess. I’m married now, so it’s about time.”
Vikings at the Capitol
Lester Bagley, Vikings president of public affairs and stadium development, explained what the team is seeking in tax incentives from the Legislature in trying to lure the 2018 Super Bowl to Minneapolis.
“The governor said that [for] the 1992 Super Bowl, there was a tax exemption on Super Bowl tickets and that has not been rescinded and it is still on the books, and that is correct,” Bagley said. “That’s about 65, 70 percent of the tax exemption. We still are pursuing a tax exemption on events, Super Bowl events.”
Bagley was asked how much help the team was expecting to get from the Legislature on potential exemptions.
“I can tell you that it’s somewhere around $12 million is the estimate for the tax exemption,” Bagley said. “The ticket tax is about three-quarters of that. There’s an income tax, like a player income tax exemption, which our legislators have said they’re not going to do. But all of our legislative leaders and the governor have agreed with our CEO co-chairs, Richard Davis, Doug Baker and Marilyn Carlson Nelson, all of our state leaders have agreed to work with our co-chairs to put together a competitive bid and work with us on this tax exemption question.”