The Minnesota Twins were hoping Trevor Plouffe would finally find a role this season as what they called a "super utility" player, a guy who can play every infield position (he has) and both corner outfield spots (he has).
They're getting so much more.
"He's picking us up big time right now, which we needed," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We needed that desperately."
That's an impressive compliment for a player who was batting .103 on May 7, but it's an apt one. The Twins are slowly crawling out of the miasma in the AL Central, pulling within 10 games of .500 and 2 1/2 games of third-place Detroit after an 11-7 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, and Plouffe is a big reason.
After going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and two runs Tuesday, he's batting .345 with six homers, five doubles and 12 RBI since May 28. Not coincidentally, the Twins are 10-3 over that span.
Plouffe isn't the only hitter getting it done, but he's a big piece for a lineup that had been relying on its stars for virtually all of its offensive production. Plouffe now has 10 homers, tied with Justin Morneau for second on the team behind Josh Willingham's 12. Plouffe has 20 RBI in 41 games.
On May 7, when his average dipped to a season-low, he had one homer and two RBI. That he wasn't sent back to Class AAA Rochester was as much about the fact that he's out of options as the fact that Minnesota wasn't ready to give up on a player who was a first-round draft pick, 20th overall, in 2004. Despite never hitting for average in the big leagues, Plouffe had shown real power potential, with 15 homers at Rochester and eight with the Twins in 2011.
"To his credit, he's worked really hard," Gardenhire said. "He came into spring training and accepted, 'Wherever you play me, I'll just go do it.' That's the biggest part of it. 'Wherever you want me to play, I'll go play. I just want to be a part of the team.' There you have it."
Plouffe doesn't disagree, telling reporters Tuesday that all he really cares about anymore is winning.
"This year I really bought into that," he said. "Not that I didn't last year -- I wanted to win last year, for sure. But that's one thing (Morneau) has really impressed on my mind: It's not about the individual guy; it's about everyone coming together. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all ships. We're rooting for each other, everyone has each other's backs."