Plouffe was a middle infielder last season
After an inconsistent 2011 season both offensively and defensively, Trevor Plouffe is making a move to the outfield, where the Minnesota Twins hope he will settle in and begin to develop some of his raw power.
The Twins are hoping a move to the outfield will do for Trevor Plouffe what it did for Michael Cuddyer.
Like Plouffe, Cuddyer was a former first-round pick struggling to play consistent infield defense until the Twins moved him to right field, where he found a defensive home and started hitting consistently. With that in mind, general manager Terry Ryan called Plouffe this winter and told the middle infielder to get a bigger glove.
Plouffe made the switch late last season, essentially because his bat showed more promise than his glove. On his last trip to Class AAA Rochester, Plouffe played games in right and left, then started 11 games in the outfield for the Twins when he was recalled in September. He didn't look like Rickey Henderson, but he caught everything he got close to.
"I did feel comfortable fairly soon after I made the transition," Plouffe said.
Plouffe is in the mix as the team's fourth outfielder, but his ability to play in the infield will no doubt help. As the Twins proved last season, a major league team can never have too much flexibility. In 81 games last season, Plouffe hit .238 with eight homers and 38 RBI. At Rochester, he hit 15 homers and drove in 33 runs.
Many of his home runs with the Twins were impressive drives deep into the left field bleachers, and through 40 games with the Twins he had a slugging percentage of .438. He also drove in the winning run in the season finale with a sharp single, helping the Twins stave off 100 losses.
"I put on some weight this offseason; I put on 10 pounds," he said. "It was something I wanted to do, and I feel more comfortable now doing it because I will be in the outfield, and it can maybe play into my role a little -- maybe add a little power."
But he also has been working on defense, practicing with the baseball team at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
"I've been working, taking fly balls and reading balls off the bat," he said. "I guess that's the only way you can get ready is take live balls off the bat."
Twins Notes & Quotes
INF Luke Hughes has a minor strain in his right shoulder but should be able to participate in most of spring training. Hughes on Feb. 10 had a magnetic resonance imaging test taken of the shoulder, injured during an Australian Winter League game earlier this week. He was trying to avoid a tag at home plate when he was hurt. The Twins immediately flew him to the Twin Cities to be examined by a team doctor.
General manager Terry Ryan said Hughes will fly to the team's training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., Saturday and is expected to rehab the shoulder through the rest of February.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report for spring training next Friday, and the first full workout is scheduled for Feb. 24. "This was the best possible news I could have gotten (regarding Hughes)," Ryan said. Hughes is a leading candidate to earn a utility spot and play his first full major league season this year.
RHP Scott Baker said the Twins' woeful performance last season allowed him to get entirely healthy before the offseason. The Twins' best starter last season -- he had a 3.14 ERA in 21 starts -- was limited to 134.1 innings by elbow problems. He was shut down for much of August and September before coming back to pitch twice in relief.
"I think I would probably have treated it a little bit differently if we would have been playing competitive baseball at the time, shooting for the playoffs," Baker said. "I think that second time, I really attempted to let it go properly, really do a proper rehab as far as one, letting it calm down completely and then building back up. It was kind of a long process to throw two or three innings, but it was something that I probably didn't have to do -- that I wanted to do just for the peace of mind going into the offseason."
The Twins on Feb. 9 claimed OF Darin Mastroianni off waivers and put him on the 40-man roster. Mastroianni, 26, made his major league debut last season, going 0 for 2 at the plate. He's a career .279 hitter in four minor league seasons but more strikingly has stolen 150 bases the past three seasons, including 70 at high-A and Class AA in 2009.
RHP Esmerling Vasquez, designated for assignment on Feb. 9, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Rochester. Vasquez was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks in late September. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound reliever was 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in 31 big-league appearances this season, but he finished the year at Class AAA Reno.
The Twins and IF Alexi Casilla were still without a deal on Feb. 10 and possibly headed toward an arbitration hearing. Hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17, the day before Twins pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.
Casilla, who made $865,000, filed for $1.75 million. The Twins have offered $1.065 million. Limited to 97 games because of a hamstring injury, he hit .260 with 21 RBI in 2011. The Twins expect him to start at second base this season.
OF Denard Span, recovering from a concussion and migraines that limited him last season, has been doing eye exercises this offseason. He works on a computer program.
"I do it three or four times a week for about a half hour," he said. "It's just strengthening up my focus, keeping my eyes focused on the target, stuff like that. That's definitely been good."
By the Numbers: 15 – Saves for RHP Matt Capps last season, which led the Twins.
Quote to Note: "He kept pitching all year long. He never complained about anything. He's game-on. We'll take our chances with him. He knows how to do it and hopefully he'll get it done at the end. We have a lot of confidence in him and we're happy to have him back." -- Manager Ron Gardenhire on re-signing RHP Matt Capps to be the closer. Capps went 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 2011 but threw 65 2/3 innings, most of all Twins relievers.