8/8: Plouffe Returns; Kepler, Mauer Awarded; Positional Musical Chairs and More

Greetings from Target Field, where it’s a bit overcast, but the perfect temperature for a baseball game. It’s Tyler Duffey (6-8, 6.21 ERA) vs. righty Collin McHugh (7-8, 4.73 ERA). Duffey might have saved himself from being sent down by going 6.0 innings, albeit giving up eight hits and five earned runs, in his last outing after going a combined 3.3 innings in his previous two starts.

But the big news was the man who was sent down to make room for third baseman Trevor Plouffe — Byron Buxton. The Star Tribune reported that Miguel Sano might be headed to Rochester, but in the days in between he went on a tear, hitting three home runs and nearly blowing a baseball through the roof of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“Obviously not an easy decision,” said Twins manager Paul Molitor. “We had a lot of speculation about how we were gonna manipulate the roster to get Trevor back prior to the decision yesterday. For me and for Rob, I think everyone’s on board that yes, we want our young players that we hope are part of our future to get experience up here, but at what cost?

Photo credit: Cumulus Media
Photo credit: Cumulus Media

“We’re trying to get Buck to be as open as he can be in terms of just what seems to be his biggest difference between here and when you go down to Triple-A and get things back on track,” he continued. “I think some of it has to do with expectations, pressure and it builds from game-to-game, at-bat to at-bat when things aren’t going your way.”

Molitor indicated that Eddie Rosario, who is still swinging at junk pitches but owns a .270/.293/.442 line going into today’s game, will get most of the time at center field in his absence.

“Yeah, he’ll be out there a lot. Danny [Santana], I’ve kind of, when those two guys have played, I’ve kinda gone with Rosie recently. I still think Danny needs go play around and do what he needs to do to give himself an opportunity,” he said.

“On a given day, if it’s a tough matchup for Rosie or something, I can put Danny out there. But yeah, Rosie’s gonna spend a lot of time out there.”

Here is today’s lineup:

As my esteemed colleague Brandon Warne pointed out on Twitter, not only is Rosario playing in center, but Jorge Polanco is at shortstop — a position he has not played much in both the majors or minor leagues this season.

“It’s been minimal,” Molitor admitted. “Yesterday, the plays that he had to make, one was a tough play over the mound and kinda do or die — didn’t happen. Then he got a ball where he had to make a longer throw and short-hopped Vargas over there at first.

“I think those are some of the things that we look for, particularly at short, maybe more than second or third, is the ability to finish plays.”

Plouffe returns

Plouffe creates a bit of a predicament for the Twins. He’s a natural leader with a track record of success in the major leagues — after a long route that took him to nearly every position in the field and swing change — but he’s hit .237/.286/.407 since June 1, mostly due to injury, as Aaron Gleeman of Baseball Prospectus pointed out on Twitter.

He has played at third primarily this season, but the Twins will reasonably want a long look at Polanco and Sano down the stretch, and Polanco may not be cut out to play at short. Plus Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas are occupying first and DH right now and playing well (aside from Mauer’s poor display of baserunning in the final game against Cleveland).

“It’s kind of an obvious question without an obvious answer,” said Molitor when asked where Plouffe will play. “As we have here, not just with the third base, first base, DH situation, but infielders and outfielders, we’re mixing it up and people are getting a chance.

“Trevor, after five weeks removed from being out there at this level, he’s gonna get a chance to play. I think he knows that some at-bats might be curtailed just by how we’re trying to get a look at people here down the stretch the last 50 games, but he’s gonna get a chance to play — it might be some at first, we might see him at DH, but we’re gonna try to get him his at-bats where I can.”

Kepler and Mauer named co-AL Players of the Week

Kepler hit .370 (9-for-27) with nine runs scored, four home runs, 11 RBI, six walks and two stolen bases in seven games. He had a three home run game in Cleveland.

Mauer hit .560 (14-for-25) with eight runs scored, six doubles, a triple and a home run in six games. The poor baserunning game aside, Mauer seen his batting average raise from the .260s to the .280s and is now hitting .280/.382/.414 on the season.

“I don’t spend a lot of time day-to-day, week-to-week thinking about who’s gonna win those awards, but when it’s your guys, it’s always good news,” said Molitor. “After hearing about it, you reflect on what those guys did last week, particularly in Cleveland, Joe had an incredible series, and Max the three-homer night, piling up the RBIs.

“It’s kind of justice that they would share it, but congratulations to those guys, they deserve it.”

Molitor happy for Ichiro

Molitor got to know Ichiro Suzuki during the 2004 season when he was the Seattle Mariners’ hitting coach and had high praise for the man who recorded his 3000th major league hit yesterday.

“It was a good day for me yesterday to hear the news about my friend, and you have to pause and you have to marvel at a young man coming over here at 27 and finding a way into that club. It’s an incredible accomplishment,” he said.

“I knew even 12 years ago he was very motivated to play a long time and do some things that are rare in this game, and sure enough he reached one of those milestones yesterday.”

Both Molitor and Ichiro recorded a triple on their 3000th hit.

“Kinda happy to join in with him to only hit triples, that makes it kind of special and kind of a little bond that we developed 12 years ago, we can stay connected with that triple as well,” he said.

“I’m not sure where it’s gonna fit with him going forward, but I think he’s gonna continue to want to play, I think he’s got a lot of baseball left in him, I know he believes that.”

Be sure to follow Brandon (@Brandon_Warne) and I (@tschreier3) for Twins coverage all season long.

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