Notebook: Trevor Plouffe feels 'kind of at home now' in outfield
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's a bit odd seeing Trevor Plouffe go through fly ball drills in left field this spring.
Drafted as a shortstop with the 20th overall pick in 2004, Plouffe made his big-league debut in 2010, then started 45 games at shortstop for the Minnesota Twins in 2011. The Twins left the door open for seven years for Plouffe to be the shortstop of the future
But that door unofficially closed last September after Plouffe made 11 errors in 396 2/3 innings. He also rated 43 runs below average per 1,000 innings according to video scouts at Baseball Info Solutions.
"I feel like last year wasn't me at shortstop," Plouffe said before practice on Tuesday. "It wasn't what I'm capable of. And I knew that. I think some people know that. But I just didn't perform there last year. ...
"I couldn't find a consistent arm slot. And when you can't find a consistent arm slot at shortstop, it's not good. I was fooling around with different slots throughout the year just trying to figure something out, and it just wasn't working for me. I wasn't making accurate throws. It's just kind of what happened."
Those struggles in the field led to the organization asking Plouffe to familiarize himself with first base and outfield, where he played a total of 14 games down the stretch. And when the Twins signed shortstop Jamey Carroll this offseason, general manager Terry Ryan called Plouffe and told him to focus primarily on playing outfield for 2012.
"I feel like I'm OK with it," Plouffe said about the position change. "I want to help the team. If being in the outfield or moving around is best for the team, that's what I'm all about. Ultimately we want wins. We don't want to experience anything like last year ever again. That's what it's about here."
Asked if he feels like he has unfinished business at shortstop, Plouffe said he feels "kind of at home now in the outfield, moving around."
"I feel like that's kind of a good fit for me," he added. "If that's what the team needs, I'm all about it."
Even though outfield will now be Plouffe's primary position, manager Ron Gardenhire said, "We're not throwing the infield glove away at all." Plouffe could very likely play up to six different positions by the time the season is over.
"I think the main thing for me is just confidence," Plouffe said. "I think a lot of times last year I would take some of my defense into my at-bats. I really tried not to do that, but it happens."
Internally, the Twins believe transitioning him to the outfield on a more frequent basis will help free up his bat -- a bat that exploded for an eye-popping 1.019 OPS in 220 Triple-A plate appearances last season before his permanent call-up. Plouffe's at-bats are what the Twins are most interested in.
"Yeah, I mean I was kind of out of control there for a little bit," Plouffe said about his Triple-A tear. "I felt like at that time, when I was down there, I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be in the big leagues. And it was kind of like, 'You know what? I've got to do something.' And it happened. I felt really comfortable. I was confident. I felt like I was better than everybody in that league. Whether I was or I wasn't, it didn't matter. That's what I thought. ...
"If you can stay confident and really just believe that you belong, that's all it takes."
In the major leagues last year, Plouffe hit .238/.305/.392 with eight home runs in 320 plate appearances.
If he could post a line of .262/.316/.451 in 2012 -- his career line at Triple-A -- the Twins would likely be elated.
Making the transition
Plouffe said reading the ball off the bat is probably the toughest transition from shortstop to the outfield.
"I think that's probably the biggest thing, getting a good jump," he said. "I'm not a speedster like (Ben) Revere, so I'm going to have to take good routes to the ball."
The throwing motion is also very different for shortstops and outfielders.
"Shortstop is a quick, compact throw," Plouffe said. "When you're in the outfield you want to get that true backspin, so it's more of an over-the-top thing. Fortunately for me, my arm feels good that way. I'm getting some good carry on the ball, and for whatever reason I'm pretty accurate out there, which is nice."
Outfield coach Jerry White said the main thing is for Plouffe to look at him for proper positioning "almost every pitch, until we get in sync, and we get our connections together and all that stuff."
In the offseason, Plouffe works out at an old abandoned gym underneath the baseball stadium at Pepperdine University with Ryan Braun and Tyler Skaggs, who was named minor league pitcher of the year in 2011. Plouffe played with Braun's younger brother in youth baseball, and their families have known each other for years. Braun and Plouffe also signed with the same agent out of their respective drafts.
Plouffe said he took two weeks off after the season ended, then got bored.
"I got the itch to start working again, so we went down to Santa Monica beach and started doing some beach workouts, some light stuff, just finding where our weaknesses were as far as stability and stuff like that."
• Ryan told reporters Joel Zumaya (elbow) has not yet made a decision on his future. Neither the Twins nor Zumaya are in a huge hurry.
• 1B Justin Morneau completed his fifth straight full-squad workout with no apparent issues.
• INF Luke Hughes (shoulder) still isn't able to throw, but he has begun light swinging. Hughes continues to take groundballs without throwing.
1: Home runs hit by Morneau off left-hander Francisco Liriano in a live session.
1: HBP by Liriano, who plunked Danny Valencia in the left shin.
7: Groundballs induced in 11 swings by right-hander Kyle Waldrop in his live session against Morneau, Valencia and Drew Butera. Waldrop threw 30 pitches in the session, and most of them had "late, heavy sink," per Valencia, which is why hitters have difficulty elevating the ball.
"Oh, stop it, big sexy Canadian."
-- Gardenhire to Morneau after the first baseman made a nice back-handed stop during infield drills.
The Twins will hold another full-squad workout on Wednesday before Thursday's 'B' game against the Boston Red Sox.