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Updated: August 27th, 2012 7:19pm
GM Ryan challenges Trevor Plouffe to 'step up and take' 3B long-term

GM Ryan challenges Trevor Plouffe to 'step up and take' 3B long-term

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- An early-summer power surge helped solidify Trevor Plouffe's spot in the Minnesota Twins lineup on a daily basis, but offensive inconsistency and spotty third-base defense continue to be issues for the former shortstop.

As a result, September -- according to general manager Terry Ryan -- will be an important month for the 26-year-old Plouffe, who entered Monday's game against the Seattle Mariners batting .240/.308/.464 with 19 home runs and 41 RBIs.

"Now it's time for him to step up and take that position and give us some thoughts that, 'OK, we don't need to address that,'" Ryan said. "He's in the prime of his career, he's been looking for a spot to call his own, and now here's his opportunity, so I hope he takes advantage of the situation. ... He's got the rest of the year to do it."

According to plus/minus data, Plouffe has been worth 14 runs below average in only 548 2/3 innings at the hot corner. That translates to about 30 runs below average over the course of a full season, which would rank him as perhaps the worst defensive every-day third baseman in baseball.

Plouffe rates particularly poorly (-12) on balls hit down the line.

Plouffe was out in the field prior to batting practice on Monday taking extra grounders.

"It's his own idea. I want them to take the initiative," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We talked about when we got home, being able to do a little more work, so he's doing it -- reading balls, staying a little bit lower."

Despite his struggles on defense this season, the Twins still view Plouffe as a possible long-term answer at third base, and the next four weeks could go a long way in determining his role in 2013 and beyond.

"I think he's athletic enough to play over there, I think he's got enough arm," Ryan said. "Certainly it can be erratic, but he does have enough arm strength. He's got enough bat to carry the position, and unfortunately since he's come back from that bone bruise on his hand it's been a struggle for him. I'll take some of that responsibility. Maybe I should have sent him out longer (on rehab).

"But he's got an opportunity to take that position and solidify it for us, and now it's up to him."

The Twins haven't had a long-term, every-day third baseman since Corey Koskie left in 2004.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Trevor Plouffe
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