Trevor Plouffe had played in 120 big-league games over portions of three seasons from 2010 to May 2012 for the Twins. He had played right field, left field, second base, shortstop and served as the designated hitter. And once, on May 2, 2012, he had played third base, going 0-for-3.
Danny Valencia had put together a strong half season as a rookie in 2010 and the Twins stuck with him at third base through a subpar 2011. He was batting .190 in 2012 when the Twins sent him to Class AAA Rochester on May 9.
Plouffe became the third baseman the next night. His minor league position had been shortstop, and the assumption was the fielding part of third base should not be a difficult transition.
We judged Plouffe harshly when he struggled with the quicker reactions required to play third base. When he let a ball get past him, usually to his left, or made a bad throw, it inevitably seemed to occur at the worst possible time for a pitcher.
Plouffe had an amazing burst of power when he first started playing regularly and finished 2012 with 24 home runs. Still, the RBI total was modest (55) and the cover-your-eyes fielding … was Plouffe really going to be a long-term answer at third base?
He looked like a placeholder for Miguel Sano again in 2013, when Plouffe batted .254 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI. If Sano had not blown out his right elbow and required Tommy John surgery, who knows what would have happened at third base in the spring of 2014?
We now know this: Sano has to look elsewhere if he's to become a regular in the field.
Plouffe turned 29 last month and has third base handled for the foreseeable future. He had 14 home runs and 80 RBI in 2014. He appears headed for 20/90 in 2015 … solid numbers in today's low-scoring baseball.
The effort expended by Plouffe in the last three years to improve as a fielder, a hitter and a teammate places him among Minnesota's more admirable pro athletes in 2015.