Despite some horrendous baseball for the Minnesota Twins organization in 2011, SS Trevor Plouffe has been a welcomed bright spot for AAA Rochester.
Plouffe blasted 3 HR in Tuesday night's doubleheader against the Pawtucket Red Sox to bring his 2011 minor league total to 15. An 18 game stint with the Twins between May 6th and June 1st ended with a .200 average, 3 HR, and 10 RBI in 71 PA. For a club that has lost the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Denard Span for significant time, his bat would figure to be a welcomed addition to the lineup.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, however, blasted the young SS after a loss to the Seattle Mariners on May 23rd when he made two key errors. Plouffe pulled up on a grounder from Jack Wilson and then allowed an Ichiro blooper to fall between him and 2nd base in the 8th. In the postgame, Gardenhire said, "I don't really know the thinking there, but I know that ball has to be caught in the air. Those are two plays that have to be made and it cost us a lot. It cost us our bullpen, it cost us a ballgame." Plouffe is by no means fresh out of high school but the psyche of a developing player needs to be handled with care. Ripping one of your brightest prospects to the media is utterly inexcusable. A more tactful approach may have been acceptable with reporters and I firmly believe that Gardy’s sentiments are to be kept between player and manager. There is nothing worse than trotting out to the field, afraid to make mistakes.
Trevor Plouffe’s hot bat has been on Gardenhire’s radar since his demotion, however. The Twins are trying to move him around the diamond to see if he can play anywhere else defensively. When asked the last time he played 1B as he did in the 2nd game Tuesday night, he responded, “ I played a couple innings in Spring Training this year but other than that, T-Ball.” Plouffe admitted to being more uncomfortable at 1B than in the OF where he has also been slotted of late. “Basically,” he said, “you’ve just gotta go out there and wing it.” In response to his time in RF, he responded, “You’ve just gotta go out there and play and kinda make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process.”
Trevor alluded to working hard with Rochester hitting coach Floyd Rayford since his demotion. When asked to comment on his 3 HR Tuesday, Plouffe seemed much more pleased with his 4BB between the two games.
Plouffe’s positive attitude left me more impressed than his performance on the field. A demotion may rattle some but Trevor said, “You can either come down here and sulk about it or you can just play and kinda force the hand again. I think right now that’s what I’m doing. I think that’s all I can do.”
With Minnesota’s middle infield comprising of Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and Matt Tolbert, it perplexes me why Plouffe hasn’t been allowed to work through his defensive struggles. I have witnessed him misplay a few ground balls in Rochester this season but a certain comfort factor will come if/when the Twins decide to leave him in the majors. His offensive upside is too much to ignore and the Twins would be better served trading him away if he isn’t in their plans.
Gardenhire has requested that Plouffe stick at 1B until the All Star break and he seems to be taking this game of musical chairs in stride. For a season that continues to wind down a path toward disaster, Minnesota would be wise to stick Plouffe back at SS in the Twin Cities.
Plouffe has done his part to force the hand of the Twins.
Your move, Gardenhire.