BOSTON - Trevor Plouffe is a Southern California native who plays guitar and once formed a band with his minor league teammates called "The Beach Bums."
He is laid-back and well-spoken. He rarely seems stressed.
But February in Fort Myers, Fla., he was one of the first arrivals at the Twins' spring training complex. He saw an opening to make the big-league roster as a utility player, so he went for it with everything he had and basically flopped.
The 2004 first-round draft pick made six errors and batted .206 before the Twins shipped him back to Class AAA Rochester.
"I think I was just pressing and overdoing it," Plouffe said. "That's not really the kind of person I am. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and I wasn't having any fun. Once I realized what I was doing, that's kind of when it clicked."
Plouffe, 24, smashed six home runs in 21 games for Rochester, while playing some of the best defense of his career. Now, he's about to get a very interesting chance to show what he can do as the Twins' every-day starting shortstop.
The test begins Friday night, when the Twins open a four-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and Plouffe is confident this time will be different.
"I just don't worry about it," he said. "I know that I'm ready. ... I can't really explain it. It's a mindset I have right now. I've worked hard, and if I'm good enough, I'm good enough."
The Twins haven't exactly set the shortstop bar high. Alexi Casilla committed four errors and batted .190 with an .543 OPS (on-base-plus slugging percentage) in 21 starts this season before telling manager Ron Gardenhire that he felt more comfortable playing second base.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Opening Day second baseman, has been taking ground balls at shortstop while rehabbing from his broken left fibula, but he is at least one week from returning.
If Plouffe takes the job and runs with it, the Twins wouldn't mind keeping Nishioka at second base. So far, Twins shortstops (Casilla and Matt Tolbert) have combined to bat .189 with a .506 OPS, which ranks 28th at that position in the majors.
Plouffe had chances last year, too, but that was different. The Twins had a shortstop they liked in J.J. Hardy, but they had a hard time keeping him healthy.
The 6-2, 200-pound Plouffe made his major league debut last May and wound up starting seven games at shortstop for the Twins. He batted .146 with two homers in 41 at-bats; he had 15 homers at Rochester.
In September, the Twins used Plouffe mostly as a pinch runner, but he also spent time talking hitting with Justin Morneau, who was recovering from a season-ending concussion.
"He would talk about being aggressive in offensive counts, and that really helped," Plouffe said. "I think the power was always there. It's getting the right pitches to swing at and knowing when to be aggressive."
Plouffe was excited to take what he learned and impress the Twins this spring.
"He had a rough time defensively," Gardenhire said. "Swinging the bat was all right as far as I'm concerned. To his credit, he went down and got off to a decent start. We always tell them to be the guy who's ready when we need somebody, and he did that."
Plouffe got word that he was getting promoted Tuesday night. He probably would have started at shortstop for the Twins on Wednesday in Chicago if the flight he and outfielder Ben Revere had taken from Rochester, N.Y., hadn't been delayed.
Later that day, as the Twins celebrated a two-game sweep of the White Sox, Plouffe sounded excited, not nervous, about this next opportunity.
"I've worked hard, and I'm having fun," he said. "I feel like we're a team right now that's on the verge of taking off. Obviously I've been here for one day, but I've been watching the games."
Anyone watching has been left to wonder what the Twins are going to do about shortstop.
Plouffe is hoping he can provide the answer.