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Parmelee looking forward to playing right field

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Parmelee looking forward to playing right field play video for Parmelee looking forward to playing right field

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On a roster that features plenty of uncertainty, especially up the middle of the diamond, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't have the luxury of knowing what to expect from some of his younger players this season.

Of course, Gardenhire has a good idea of what he's going to get from veterans such as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit. But he also gave a full vote of confidence to Chris Parmelee, who is taking over in right field after the club traded both Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason.

"I don't worry about Chris Parmelee at all right now," Gardenhire said. "He's not even a thought as far as worries go. Parmelee's fine. He's been up there enough already. I think he's totally comfortable. I'm looking forward to watching him play. I think he's going to have a really good year for us. I think the kid can swing the bat. I think he's going to be fine in right field. He's earned this opportunity, now go get it."

Parmelee, though, isn't taking anything for granted this spring, as he's still going to approach it like he's competing for a roster spot. But he admitted it was nice to hear that Gardenhire has confidence in him for the upcoming season.

"It's definitely a good feeling," said Parmelee, who turned 25 on Sunday. "It's something new for me. I haven't had that before, so it feels good."

It's certainly a different feeling than last year, when Parmelee came into camp not knowing what to expect for the upcoming season.

He was coming off a big year in Double-A New Britain that earned him time in the Majors as a September callup, and he took advantage of his time with the Twins, hitting .355 with four homers and six doubles in 21 games.

He ended up impressing again in 2012 Grapefruit League play, batting .261 with an .886 OPS to force his way onto the roster as the club's starting first baseman with Morneau sliding to designated hitter because Morneau didn't want to retrigger any concussion-like symptoms at first base.

But Parmelee struggled to start out the year, hitting just .179/.250/.262 with no homers in his first 27 games, and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on May 15.

It ended up becoming a season of ups and downs -- literally -- for Parmelee, as he ended up being optioned three times before being called up for good in August.

Parmelee dominated at Triple-A, hitting .338/.457/.645 with 17 homers and 17 doubles in 64 games, but with his playing time scattered in the big leagues, he batted just .229/.290/.380 with five homers and 10 doubles in 64 games with the Twins.

Parmelee, however, called it a learning experience, as he certainly wasn't the first rookie player to be shuttled back and forth between the Majors and the Minors.

"Nobody wants to get sent down, but looking back at it you have to realize it's what was best for you at the time," said Parmelee, who hit a more respectable .270 with a .755 OPS in the Majors during the second half. "You have to take it with a grain of salt and get your work in and try your best to get back up."

Parmelee added that he's excited about being reunited with Tom Brunansky, who is Minnesota's new hitting coach this year after serving as hitting coach for Double-A New Britain in '11 and Triple-A Rochester in '12.

Parmelee even spent time with him this offseason, as he lives only about an hour north of Brunansky, who makes his home in Poway, Calif.

"I've had the pleasure of working with him since 2010," Parmelee said. "I've said this a lot, but he doesn't try to change who you are as a hitter. He works with what you got. He's just really positive and knows his stuff. I know when I got sent down last year I took two or three swings in the cage, and he knew what to fix. So he just has a knack for the game."

So while the Twins aren't concerned with Parmelee's ability to hit given his track record in the Minors, he'll be adjusting to a new position this year, as he'll be taking over for Revere in right field.

It's not a new position for Parmelee -- he's played 282 games in right in the Minors compared to 385 at first -- but he admitted it's much tougher to play it in the Majors for obvious reasons.

"I'm starting to get more comfortable out there, but the guys are definitely bigger, stronger and faster in the big leagues," Parmelee said. "So it'll be an adjustment, but I'm looking forward to it."

Parmelee said the key is working on his routes, as he joked that he's not going to be making plays quite like Revere, who is one of the fastest players in baseball.

"It's no secret I don't have Ben Revere speed," Parmelee said with a smile.

But Parmelee is taking the switch to right field seriously, as he trained hard this offseason to work on his agility and quickness.

"I did some explosive drills, where I'm going backwards," Parmelee explained. "Because at first base everything is front of you and side-to-side, so I did drills to make my hips explosive going backwards. So it was first-step quickness and working on good routes."

So for now, Parmelee said the most important thing this spring will be to continue to get reps in right field to get ready for the season.

"I've been taking balls live off the bat and I'm still doing that right now," Parmelee said. "It's one of those situations where you can't take too many live fly balls off the bats."

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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