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Updated: May 9th, 2012 7:01pm
Mackey: Now is the time for Trevor Plouffe to play every day

Mackey: Now is the time for Trevor Plouffe to play every day

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is no way to sugarcoat a .140/.302/.233 batting line. That's simply a terrible way to start the season.

Yet, with two singles on Tuesday night that's exactly the batting line Trevor Plouffe finds himself with in 53 plate appearances on the season.

Plouffe, 25, has played sparingly early on. He started only three of the Twins' first 13 games and 10 of the last 16. And on the surface, it probably doesn't make much sense to give extra playing time to a guy hitting .140/.302/.233.

But digging deeper, there are two main reasons why the Twins (8-21) should consider playing Plouffe regularly right now:

1.) He is out of minor league options, and with outfielders like Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson at some point needing playing time in the big leagues over the next year or two, 2012 might be the last real chance for the Twins to see what they have in Plouffe, a former first-round draft pick.

2.) Plouffe seems to be developing better plate discipline, despite what his batting average says.

Had Plouffe not ripped off 15 home runs and 11 doubles in 220 plate appearances for Triple-A Rochester early last season, this probably wouldn't even be a discussion right now.

That's some serious pop, and it had people in the organization rightfully curious. And we're not talking about a 29-year-old career Triple-A first baseman masher hitting 15 home runs in 220 plate appearances. It was a 24-year-old former first-round pick who was, perhaps, a late-bloomer in the power department.

Plouffe showed some pop at Triple-A prior to that, especially for (at the time) a middle infielder -- but not 15-home-runs-in-220-trips pop.

Plouffe's biggest problem in the big leagues up until this season was poor pitch selection -- swinging at approximately 33% of pitches outside of the strike zone between 2010 and 2011. His swinging strike rate also ranked among the league's highest. As a result, Plouffe struck out 85 times in his first two seasons (364 plate appearances) and walked only 25 times.

The hits haven't come yet this season. But Plouffe is only swinging at 19% of pitches out of the strike zone, and he has drawn 10 walks to just six strikeouts.

Small sample size, yes, but those are some pretty key areas to show improvements in.

"He's just missing some pitches," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We liked his swing (Tuesday) night. He put some nice swings out there, and he has taken some big walks. The batting average will come. It's just right now he's got to keep the ball out of the air (pop-ups). He's just missing some balls. ... I think the issue he's had is he's fouled so many balls straight back. That means he's just on it, just that much underneath them or this much over the top. But he's had a lot of quality at-bats. He's getting on-base... He's a force. ...

"I feel pretty good when he walks up to the plate, to tell you the truth. I feel like he's going to put a pretty good swing on it."

Plouffe was not in the lineup on Wednesday night, but Gardenhire assured "he's going to get plenty of playing time."

Denard Span and Josh Willingham will almost always occupy center field and left field, and lately waiver pick-up Erik Komatsu has started every day as well.

Plouffe has played four positions already this season -- right field, shortstop, second base and third base. Because of his past throwing issues and lack of range in the middle infield Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan feel more comfortable with Plouffe in the outfield, where he has done a solid job this year.

But one way or another it's time to put him somewhere in the lineup as often as possible to see what his bat can do.

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
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