Trevor Plouffe grimaced as he walked off the field Tuesday night, taking himself out of the game because of a muscle strain in the left side of his rib cage. A day later, the grimace was gone — but not the dejection.
“If that was my last at-bat [as a Twin], it would be pretty sad,” Plouffe said. “I hope it’s not.”
He’s a long shot to return this season, however, and his prospects for 2017 aren’t much clearer.
Plouffe was diagnosed Wednesday with a strain of the oblique and intercostal muscles on his left side, injuries that normally require 4-6 weeks to heal. Given that the Twins’ season ends in 24 days, the chances — and perhaps the wisdom — of a return this month seem doubtful.
“I don’t think there’s a very strong likelihood he’s going to play,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “But should he give up on saying, ‘OK, maybe this is going to be better in 10 days?’ It’s not very likely, but [trying to come back] is the mind-set that someone should have.”
Plouffe not only wants to come back this season, he insists he doesn’t want to go to another team next year, either. He acknowledged, however, that he’s wondered whether the Twins will decide to move on without him. He’s 30 years old, cost the Twins $7.25 million this year, played only 84 games this season and occupies a position in which the Twins have other, younger options.
“Anything’s possible. Sure, all the situations go through your mind,” said Plouffe, who has appeared in more games over the past six seasons than any Twin except Joe Mauer. “That’s something that I can’t control, so why worry about it? … My No. 1 thing, if I had my choice, would be to be back here, and my last choice would be to not be back.”
That’s remarkable in itself, given that the Twins are on pace to blow past 100 losses this season. But “I’m not a person who thinks about all the negative stuff, how poor the season has been for our team, how poor it started out for me,” Plouffe said. “The uncertainties a baseball player has to go through in terms of contracts, non-tenders, trade deadline, all that stuff — you blot all that out. It doesn’t help you.”
Plouffe has batted .260 this season, with a .303 on-base percentage and .420 slugging percentage — numbers down from his career averages, but not by much. His 12 homers and 47 RBI are career lows since he became a full-time starter in 2012, but he had homered five times in the past 11 days — including two at-bats before his season abruptly became endangered.
Plouffe’s plan now is to put off any decision until the Twins depart on their road trip Monday.
“In five days, if I’m feeling pretty good, we’ll put the pedal to the metal to get back for the last week or so,” Plouffe said. “If I’m not, we’ll have to think about letting it heal.”
Time is also the only thing that will clarify his professional status, too.
“There’s going to be uncertainty this offseason, no matter what,” Plouffe said.