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Updated: June 30th, 2013 10:25pm
Zulgad: Chris Parmelee's struggles at plate are real cause for concern

Zulgad: Chris Parmelee's struggles at plate are real cause for concern

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Manager Ron Gardenhire made it clear entering spring training that Chris Parmelee was going to get a chance to be the regular right fielder for the Minnesota Twins.

The immediate reaction, or thought, was whether Parmelee's defense would be good enough to keep him in the outfield. Nonetheless, the Twins wanted to see what Parmelee could do playing on a daily basis and Justin Morneau already occupied Parmelee's primary position of first base.

Three months into the season, Parmelee has ended up being a pleasant surprise in right field. At least that was the case until Sunday, when he made two costly mistakes on defense in the Twins' 9-8 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Target Field.

Parmelee wasn't charged with an error for either miscue but he and Gardenhire both acknowledged the importance of the mistakes.

The first came in the third inning after Lorenzo Cain singled and David Lough followed with a soft hit to right that Parmelee didn't pursue as aggressively as he should have. Lough made it appear as if he might stop at first base before turning on the speed and heading to second.

Parmelee, realizing he had to hurry, overthrew second base and third baseman Trevor Plouffe made a nice play to make sure the ball didn't get past everyone.

"The first one it looked like the guy kind of lulled him to sleep," Gardenhire said. "A blooper down the right field line and he just looked at the runner. The guy wasn't going hard and then turned it on. You end up having to try to rush after that. You've got to go get the ball."

Said Parmelee: "Most guys aren't going to second on that play. He's fast and made me overthrow it."

After a single by Johnny Giavotella moved Lough to third, he scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Gordon to make it 2-0 Royals.

Lough wasn't done spoiling Parmelee's day.

In the fourth inning, Lough hit a screamer off the right field wall that Parmelee fielded and threw to second base. The problem was that Billy Butler had scored from second and Mike Moustakas had designs of scoring from first. Because the throw went to second and didn't hit the cutoff man, the eventual relay was too late and Moustakas scored.

"We've got to be throwing home," Gardenhire said. "It's a 3-2 count, runners are running on the play, ball off the wall, you've got to pick it up and hit the cutoff man. Everything we've talked about. He didn't hit the cutoff man. He threw to second base all the way in the air and the guy scores. That's another run. Just mental mistakes and those things kill you."

Parmelee, to his credit, answered all questions after the game and appeared to be genuinely upset with himself.

"I didn't do my job today," he said. "I overthrew a guy ... Yeah, it's a tough one. I made the mistakes and threw the ball to second base. I should have been going home and take full responsibility for that. That's my mess up. ... There's really no explanation for it other than I screwed up and threw to the wrong base."

While Parmelee wasn't happy about his defense, there might have been another reason he appeared to be down. That probably has more to do with his performance at the plate this season.

Overall, Parmelee might be a pleasant surprise on defense - he has six outfield assists -- but the same can't be said about how he's done with the bat. That's started to impact his playing time.

He started for only the fourth time in the past two weeks in right field on Sunday and went 1-for-4 with one RBI. Parmelee is hitting .228/.310/.376 with seven home runs and 17 RBI. He's batting only .153 (9-for-59) with 19 strikeouts with runners in scoring position.

Gardenhire started Oswaldo Arcia in left field on Sunday with Clete Thomas in center and Parmelee in right. But the manager admitted this weekend he prefers to play Arcia in right field. Arcia got the nod in left field as Gardenhire continues to try to get Josh Willingham and his sore left knee some rest.

The Twins have spent this season trying to give one last shot to guys considered prospects.

Parmelee, a first-round pick in 2006, fits into that group. Parmelee came up in 2011 for the first time and hit .355 with four home runs and 14 RBI in 21 games and 76 at-bats. Last season, he hit only .229 with five homers and 20 RBI in 64 games and 192 at-bats.

If Parmelee was making the most of his opportunity at the plate, it would make it much easier for the Twins to trade Morneau before his contract expires at the end of this season. Parmelee could then be plugged in at first base and Arcia could make the shift to right on a full-time basis.

But if Parmelee can't prove that he belongs, he stands to find himself elsewhere.

The Twins' outfield of the future projects to be Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Arcia. That means that Parmelee's real audition isn't in the outfield but rather to see if he's the guy to replace Morneau.

Right now, it's looking more and more like that might not be the case. 

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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