Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Plouffe's injury could mean Valencia's return

For what seems like the 100th time, the Twins are taking their time deciding whether or not a player should be put on the disabled list. Trevor Plouffe has an injury to his thumb and he has missed five consecutive games as he tries to recover. He tried to work out over the last couple of days and it sounds like gripping and swinging the bat have been tough for him to do. During the game on Wednesday afternoon, Plouffe was going to try and do some work in the cage. If everything went fine during this workout, he could avoid time on the DL but the Twins might be forced to call-up someone for the start of the homestand on Friday night. 

This has been a reoccurring theme over the last couple years as the team waits for a week or more after an injury to place a player on the disabled list. It's fine to give a player a couple days to try and work through some kind of nagging injury but the Twins often wait longer than it seems would be necessary. The earliest that Plouffe would see action again is on Friday and that is a week after the last game that he appeared in. If he was place on the disabled list, he would be forced to the sidelines of 15-days. This might not seem like a big deal but there are negatives from waiting to put a player on the DL.

Over the course of the last couple days, the Twins have been forced to play with a little bit of a short bench. Plouffe's non-availability meant that Ron Gardenhire was left with of a bench composed of Drew Butera and Darin Mastroianni. Later in the game when Alexi Casilla left the game, the Twins were forced to turn to Mastroianni at second base, the first time he appeared in the infield as a big leaguer. He had played five games at second base with Rochester earlier this season but it still wasn't the ideal situation for the Twins. 

When Friday rolls around and the Twins make a decision on Plouffe's injury, one of the options to replace him on the roster could be Danny Valencia. A couple of season's ago it seemed like Valencia would be the solution at third base that the Twins had been searching for since the departure of Corey Koskie in the mid-2000s. His rookie campaign was outstanding before coming back to the pack in 2011. The third base job was still his at the start of the 2012 season but his poor offensive numbers and spotty defense were hard for the team to ignore. In 27 games at the big league level this year, he hit .190/.204/.290 with seven extra-base hits to his credit. 

By the beginning of May, the Twins had seen enough and Valencia was sent packing to Triple-A for the first time since 2010. The opening at third base allowed for the emergence of Plouffe as one of the best power hitting threats in the Twins line-up. After having over 1000 plate appearances in the big leagues, Valencia should find the pitchers in the minors much easier to hit. He has done a little better with Rochester but he hasn't exactly been hitting the cover off of the ball. In 67 games with the Red Wings, he has hit .250/.290/.400 with 16 doubles and seven home runs. He has been given plenty of opportunities since he has been batting in the middle of the line-up for most games in Rochester. 

A report came out earlier this month that Valenica is unhappy playing in the minor leagues. Chris Perez, a college teammate of Valenica and a relief pitcher for the Indians, went on to say that Valencia is working hard in the minor leagues and he was just waiting for another opportunity at the big league level. It looks like the time might have arrived for Valenica to get another shot with the Twins. The poor play by Valenica earlier this year allowed Plouffe to shine at third base. Now an injury to Plouffe could mean a second chance for Valencia after he was cast off to the minor leagues.

Overall, it would most likely be a short call-up for whoever is picked to replace Plouffe on the 25-man roster. The Twins could continue to let Jamey Carroll start at third base with Brian Dozier and Alexi Casilla filling up the spots in the middle infield. The only infielders at Rochester that are on the 40-man roster are Valencia, Chris Parmelee, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Parmelee has been called up multiple times this season and Gardenhire has a hard time penciling his name in the line-up. Fans of the Twins might revolt if Nishioka was brought back to the big leagues. Pedro Florimon has been having a great month of July but he would need to be added to the 40-man roster to make it to Minnesota.

If Plouffe has to go on the DL, it looks like the Twins might be forced to give Valencia the second chance that he has been waiting for...

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