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Big changes in store for Plouffe in '12

Big changes in store for Plouffe in '12

Big changes in store for Plouffe in '12
MINNEAPOLIS -- In early November, not long after Terry Ryan replaced Bill Smith, Trevor Plouffe received a call from the new general manager.

Ryan wanted to inform Plouffe that the club was planning on moving him from his natural shortstop position to the outfield.

"He told me to pick up that outfielder's glove coming into camp and be ready to move around, not only in the outfield,'" Plouffe said. "I think that's where I'll primarily be in Spring Training -- outfield."

It's a big change for Plouffe, who played 13 games in the outfield last year after playing just seven there over his eight-year Minor League career.

But it's a move the Twins feel is necessary after Plouffe struggled defensively at shortstop last season, making 11 errors in 45 games.

The Twins are hoping that Plouffe will have similar results as Michael Cuddyer, who was switched from shortstop early in his career and became a solid offensive player after a move to the outfield.

The Twins are hoping that like Cuddyer, Plouffe can become a versatile defender with the ability to still see occasional time in the infield when needed.

"When [Cuddyer] was moving around last year, I tried to pick his brain about how he dealt with it," Plouffe said. "He told me it was something where he wasn't stressed about playing infield, and going out there in the outfield felt easy to him, and [he] was able to focus and free his mind a little bit."

Plouffe moved around a bit at Triple-A Rochester late in the season to try his hand at a utility role and said that he was surprised by how comfortable he felt moving around the diamond.

He also saw time at a number of positions with the Twins late in the year, including second base, third base, first base, left field and right field.

But he was still inconsistent last year, and hopes to also improve on his offense, as he hit .238/.305/.392 in 81 games with the Twins but showed flashes of power with eight homers and 18 doubles. That power was even more evident at Triple-A, where he hit .313/.384/.635 with 15 homers and 11 doubles in 51 games.

"I thought last year there were some flashes of good things, but I want to be more consistent," he said. "You want to prolong those good times as long as you can. You're going to go through slumps and not play well sometimes, that's how it is, but you want to minimize that."

To get ready to make the transition to outfield, Plouffe has been practicing at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He started getting ready for the upcoming season just three weeks after last year's disappointing season ended.

"I've been working, taking fly balls and reading balls off the bat at Pepperdine with their team," he said. "I guess that's the only way you can get ready, take live balls off the bat."

He also said that he's put on weight this offseason, adding about 10 pounds to his frame to help with his power now that he's moving off shortstop.

"It was something I wanted to do, and I feel more comfortable now doing it since I'll be in the outfield, and it can sort of play into my role a little by maybe adding a little power," he said. "I got a chance to learn from some good power hitters over the last couple of years."

So it will be an important Spring Training as Plouffe, who is out of Minor League options, tries to prove he can be a capable fourth outfielder and utility player.

But Plouffe is ready to move past last year's tough season, and is ready to contribute in a positive way with the Twins.

"I definitely use it as motivation," he said. "We're not used to losing as an organization, and I know the fan base isn't used to losing. So we don't want to get used to it all. It's a driving force."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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