Thirteen months ago, it didn’t look like Trevor Plouffe would be long for the major leagues. He was 26-years-old and in 425 at-bats over parts of three seasons, Plouffe had hit just .212. His performance in the field hadn’t been much better. The former 1st round pick had played all over the diamond and not distinguished himself anywhere. The organization had to be running out of patience.
Then, suddenly and inexplicably, something clicked. Over the next month, Plouffe hit .327/.391/.735 with 11 homeruns and 21 RBI in 98 at-bats. He settled into third base and stayed there for the remainder of the season, finishing with 24 long balls.
Plouffe struggled out the gate again this season and did a stint on the Disabled List with a calf injury before returning June 15. Since then he’s shown flashes of the form that surprised so many in 2012, driving in 13 runs in his last 15 games. I caught up with personable infielder during the Kansas City series last week.
DZ: It seems like that since you came off the DL, you’ve been swinging the bat pretty well. How’s it been going for you?
PLOUFFE: I feel like that since I didn’t go on the DL for anything that would mess with my swing - just the calf issue - I was able to carry my routine over even when I was on the DL…If you don’t have a consistent routine, you are not going to be consistent at the plate. I’ve been able to keep that going and translate it so far into the games.
DZ: You hit a homerun your first game back. Did that just kind of speed things up for you, “OK, I am ready for live games, no worries?”
PLOUFFE: No, you have to approach every day the same way…It was nice to drive in some runs there and help us win that game, but it’s a new day every day and you have to continue to work.
DZ: A little over a year ago, you were on the team, but hadn’t really carved out a role for yourself. Then you went on a tear where you hit a bunch of homeruns and kind of became the everyday third baseman. What did that do for your confidence?
PLOUFFE: It did a lot. I felt like I was part of the team before that; you are here every day just trying to win and help win in any way possible. Before that I was kind of coming off the bench and playing different positions. I was fine with doing that, but being able to stick at one position and be there every day kind of helps me, like I said, maintain the routine. It’s been nice to be able to come to the park and know I am going to be at third.
DZ: When you hit a bunch of homeruns like that, does that creep into your psyche? Do you try to hit them more? How does that work?
PLOUFFE: Most people don’t go up there trying to hit homeruns. There are probably a few guys in the big leagues who do, but for me personally when I try to hit homeruns I tend to get out of my comfort zone. I will start chasing pitches. They happen on mistake pitches basically; once and awhile I get lucky with one. Homeruns just happen, you do want to go out there trying to hit homeruns, you want to go out there and try to have good at bats.
DZ: Did you play (third base) much before you got to this level?
PLOUFFE: No, I played – I don’t know – 20, 30 games throughout my minor league career there and maybe a few here and there at the big league level. Last year was basically the start of it.
DZ: What’s the biggest difference from shortstop?
PLOUFFE: It’s completely different, the angles are different. At shortstop, you have a little more time to read the ball. Also, you were able to come on most balls. At third base, it’s more of a reactionary position where your angles are back, usually. You go lateral and back…It’s still fielding the ball and throwing to first base. There are a lot of things that I still have to work on to have to come to me naturally. That takes just reps to get into your muscle memory.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players: