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Updated: February 16th, 2013 4:40pm
Notebook: Trevor Plouffe earns right to get chance to take 3rd base

Notebook: Trevor Plouffe earns right to get chance to take 3rd base

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There was a time this offseason when it appeared that Trevor Plouffe might have some serious competition for the third base job.

Terry Ryan, the Minnesota Twins general manager, said in early December that he had made progress toward acquiring someone to push Plouffe. That, however, never happened. In retrospect, it's unclear if Ryan really was close to getting someone or if he wanted to see how Plouffe would respond.

After the Twins held their first full-squad workout on Saturday, manager Ron Gardenhire made it clear the team is going to give Plouffe every chance to win the job.

"He hit 20 what (home runs last year)," Gardenhire said. "I think that earns him the right to get a chance. I know he got beat up with his hands hurting. He's earned an opportunity to go out there and play. That's what we say here. You have to earn it. But putting the ball in the seats as many times as he did, no matter how many games he played in, that's pretty good. So he earned it. It's up to him how he plays and how long he plays."

Plouffe had 24 home runs in 2012, but 11 of those came during a June power surge. He was slowed by a thumb injury in the second half of the season and finished with a .235 average and 55 RBI.

Plouffe, 26, has said he is pleased that he knows what position he is going to be playing this season. He played 45 games at shortstop in 2011. but made 11 errors. Throwing miscues were his biggest problem.

Last year, he was shifted to right field and put on weight in order to generate more power.

However, Plouffe ended up playing only 15 games in right field and eventually was moved to third base to replace Danny Valencia. Plouffe committed 17 errors in 95 games at that position, creating some concern about his ability to play there.

Asked about Plouffe's throwing, Gardenhire said: "He's doing fine. He'll be fine. We all know about the throwing part and all those things. I know Plouffie worked his butt off out there trying to get better. That's half the battle. You've got a guy willing to go out and do extra work, tried a lot of different things. The advantage he has now is he's the third baseman. It's not like he's got to take ground balls in left field. He's got one focus and that's playing third and getting his hits. Two focuses but one ideal -- third base, hits."

Plouffe also lost about four or five pounds this offseason in order to gain some speed. He stole only one base in 119 games in 2012.

"He knew that he was going to work on his footwork, speed, everything else," Gardenhire said. "Trying to get him to steal a base (last year) he'd tell you he's gotten slower. Probably losing some weight and coming in in great shape...he's got it all right in front of him why wouldn't you give yourself every opportunity?"

Opening message

Gardenhire spoke to the entire team for the first time this season on Saturday before the players took to the various fields at the Lee County Sports Complex. This comes after back-to-back seasons of 99 and 96 losses and with Gardenhire entering the final year of his contract.

Asked about what he said in his speech, Gardenhire said: "Whatever is on your mind. Basically, welcome here and (here are the) expectations. What you can and can't control, that type of stuff, and how we expect everybody to handle themselves."

Gardenhire, when asked if he introduced any new wrinkles into his speech, said, jokingly, "You lose 96 games, you get wrinkles. ... Look at my eyes, right underneath here, that used to be flat as a pancake. That would be called late nights, not sleeping." 

On the move

Brian Dozier is going to get an opportunity to make the Twins' roster out of spring training, but if he does it will be as a second baseman and not a shortstop. Pedro Florimon is the leading candidate to play short, the position Dozier got an opportunity to win in 2012.

"Right now, I want (Dozier) working at second a lot because that's the (place) that he needs the most work at," Gardenhire said. "That's where he's probably got the most work to do."

Gardenhire said he had a discussion with Dozier on Saturday about playing second and keeping things as simple as possible. Gardenhire knows plenty about playing both middle infield spots, having spent time there during his career.

"Everything at second, and I made this transition, you're going away from first base," he said. "At shortstop, everything's in front of you. You're going towards first base. The runner's coming at you. Second base it's side views a lot.

"Going to the bag, running coming at you from the side, catching balls up the middle going away from the base. It's a little bit of an adjustment for you. It's like the field's turned around on you. It takes a little bit of getting used to but spring training will be good for him.

Soft launch

Ordinarily, the first full day of spring training workouts prove to be a pretty active, but this year that wasn't the case.

"Because of our schedule, this is a little bit different,"  Gardenhire said. "Normally our first full day is live (batting practice) and all those things. Pitchers throwing live BP. But because of the way spring training was scheduled this year, we've still got another day after today of pitchers over here, other players over there.

"Monday, it's all going to be, boom, stuff going everywhere, three fields going. That's when it gets entertaining. You see live pitching, live BP. The day gets a little longer, but I get to see people getting after each other. That's the best."

Quick swings

Gardenhire said that Eduardo Escobar, who was obtained from the Chicago White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade last summer, will get a chance to move around the infield. Veteran Jamey Carroll also will do the same. Both can play third base, second base and shortstop. Escobar hit .227 with six RBI in 14 games for the Twins late last season.

Gardenhire didn't hesitate when asked about Chris Parmelee's role on the Twins. Unless something unexpected happens, Parmelee will be the team's right fielder this season. "I don't worry about Chris Parmelee at all right now," Gardenhire said. "He's not even a thought as far as worries go. Parmelee's fine. He's been up there enough already. I think he's totally comfortable. I'm looking forward to watching him play. I think he's going to have a really good year for us. I think the kid can swing the bat. I think he's going to be fine in right field. He's earned this opportunity, now go get it." 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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