Mackey: Trevor Plouffe's tear catches eye of good friend Ryan Braun
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Somewhere around the early part of May -- after Danny Valencia was sent down to Triple-A Rochester -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked about the likelihood of Trevor Plouffe seeing more playing time.
More specifically, Gardenhire was asked if Plouffe -- out of minor league options and slugger of 15 home runs in two months at Triple-A in 2011 -- could translate his power to the big leagues on a consistent basis.
"Well, that's what we have to find out," Gardenhire said.
Oh, Gardenhire and the Twins found out.
By hitting two more solo homers on Friday night Plouffe now leads the team with 14. He has 10 home runs over his last 14 games, and since May 12 he has raised his slugging percentage from .204 to .575.
There are no hotter hitters in baseball at the moment than Plouffe.
It's probably only fitting that the apex of Plouffe's Ruthian tear came in front of long-time friend and offseason workout comrade Ryan Braun, who, coincidentally, also hit a home run on Friday night -- a three-run job to break up Francisco Liriano's no-hit bid.
"I think he's swinging the bat as well as I've ever seen anybody swing the bat over a 20-game stretch," Braun said.
"Guys figure it out at different points. Sometimes it's one thing that clicks. I think when I watch him now the only thing that looks different I feel like his foot's down sooner, like he's recognizing pitches earlier. But the ability has always been there. He always works hard."
Braun, 28, and Plouffe, who turned 26 on Friday, have known each other for about 15 years. Plouffe played youth baseball with Braun's younger brother Steve, who played in the Brewers system from 2008-2010.
Plouffe was the 20th overall pick in 2004, and Braun was the fifth overall pick in 2005, and both signed with the same agent after their respective drafts.
Since Braun was drafted, the two have worked out together every offseason underneath the baseball stadium at Pepperdine University in an old, abandoned gymnasium they call "The Dungeon."
And this offseason, when Braun was under fire for failing a performance-enhancing drug test, Plouffe defended his friend adamantly on Twitter and to reporters.
Now Plouffe is hitting a lot like Braun.
"I think of him like a little brother," Braun said. "I've known him forever, and he's one of my good friends. ... It's been a lot of fun to watch the success he's had. ...
"He's got a great head on his shoulders. I think he has great perspective. He has the right personality to succeed in this game. I've always said the way that you deal with adversity ultimately dictates the success that you have in this game. And he's the type of person that doesn't get too high or too low. He doesn't get overly discouraged when he struggles, and I don't think he's too high right now when he's playing as well as he is. ...
"Obviously he just turned 26 years old today, so he's certainly got a bright future ahead of him, and it's a lot of fun to watch, man."