Trevor Plouffe may still be a work in progress, but nights like the one he had Thursday in Minnesota's 4-3, 10-inning victory over the Kansas City Royals will keep the Twins interested. Very interested.
Plouffe, 26, entered the game in a major rut, forcing the Twins to rethink plans to make him their starting third baseman in 2013. However, he made a spectacular play to save a run in the fifth inning and went 2-for-4, capping his day in the ninth inning with a leadoff homer to left on a 97 mph fastball from Greg Holland. The blast tied the game, 3-3.
It seemed to be just what Plouffe needed.
"I don't know if he did; I did," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I really liked it. I'm sure he did. I'm sure it felt really good to click on a baseball; he's been battling."
This is what the Twins have been hoping to see from Plouffe, who seemed to sew up the third base job with a remarkable offensive streak before the All-Star break, when he hit .296 with 18 homers and 32 RBI from May 16-July 3. However, he entered Thursday's game hitting .167 with one homer and nine RBI in 27 games since returning from a thumb injury on Aug. 13.
He missed 20 games.
"Since I came back off the DL, it's been a little bit of a struggle for me, there's no doubt about it," Plouffe said. "But no one's going to feel sorry for you. You've got to get yourself out of these ruts, and that's what a good big-league baseball player does -- he's consistent, and when he gets in a rut, he gets himself out of it. I'm still learning how to do that, there's no doubt about it."
Thursday was a good start.
"We are not going to give up on Trevor Plouffe as long as he doesn't give up on himself," general manager Terry Ryan said before the game. "He's going through a tough time right now, but he has to find a way out of that tough time. As cold as he is now, he was doubly hot through that stretch. You can't give up on that. You've seen it, you know it's there, you know he's capable."