Plouffe seeks consistency in middle of Twins lineup

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2014 - 11:30 PM
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Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune file

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Trevor Plouffe wasn’t fooled by Alex Cobb’s changeup Friday. Plouffe timed the 86-mile-per-hour pitch perfectly, and smoothly whacked it into the left-field seats, his seventh home run of the season.

He hopes it’s the start of something big.

“I’ve always been a guy who tends to hit them in bunches, so I hope that comes into play in the second half” of the season, the Twins third baseman said. “I need to hit more homers. The power’s still there.”

For a guy with more doubles this season than Mike Trout, more than every AL player but Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve, matter of fact, Plouffe is not particularly satisfied with his production in the season’s first half. His 27 doubles are already a career high, his RBI total of 44 should easily eclipse his best-ever 55 from two seasons ago, and his batting average (.245) and on-base percentage (.317), while not particularly great, are at least a small step forward from his career averages.

But Plouffe has batted in the middle of the Twins lineup more than ever this year — he’s been the third hitter 46 times, and Friday was his fourth start in the cleanup spot — and he believes he needs to carry more of the offensive load.

“I’m in the middle, so I need to improve in those run-producing situations,” he said. “My main goal this year was to be more consistent, [and] I haven’t done a good job of that. I’ve had some good runs, but I cool off. I know I’m no spring chicken anymore. It’s my time to get it going and show I can be consistent for this team.”

Santana returns

Danny Santana went 0-for-11 in his rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers, but the results didn’t matter much to the Twins. More important, the versatile rookie appeared totally recovered from the knee bruise he suffered last month, and he convinced the team’s decision-makers he was ready to return to the big leagues.

He started in center field but will get playing time at his natural position of shortstop, too, manager Ron Gardenhire said.

“He was our igniter before he got hurt,” Gardenhire said. “He was doing some things that were fun to watch. Hopefully he’ll get back to that.”

Catcher Chris Herrmann was returned to Class AAA Rochester. He got only one at-bat during his week with the Twins.

Etc.

Joe Mauer is “doing a whole lot of exercises,” including several sessions in a pool, to treat his strained oblique, General Manager Terry Ryan said. but the Twins first baseman has not yet been able to do any baseball activities, so it’s still too early to set a target date for his return.

• Injured righthander Ricky Nolasco played catch in the outfield for the first time on Friday, so the Twins believe his elbow injury will improve quickly. “It looks like he’s OK, or near it,” Ryan said. “But we’ve got to stretch him out a little bit, too.”

• The Twins’ switch of Kevin Correia and Phil Hughes in their rotation — Hughes will start Saturday, with Correia on Sunday, after originally being slotted in reverse order — is nothing more than a reflection of their between-starts programs, Gardenhire said.

“It just worked out better this way,” he said.

• Twins third base coach Joe Vavra has a torn labrum in his hip and is in too much pain to stand so long on the field, Gardenhire decided. So for at least the next few games, first base coach Scott Ullger will move back to third, where he coached for several seasons, and Paul Molitor will replace him at first base.

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