Twins need to find a role for sudden slugger Trevor Plouffe

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2004 first-round pick Trevor Plouffe, long considered a disappointment by Twins fans, hit three homers and walked four times in a doubleheader for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday.

Despite spending almost all of May in the majors, he now has 15 homers in his 45 games for the Red Wings.  Overall, he’s hitting .308/.385/.663 in 169 at-bats.

Which makes it baffling that he’s still in the minors with the Twins’ need for offense.  Plouffe more than held his own in his May callup.  He batted just .200, but that came with three homers and eight walks in 60 at-bats.  He drove in 10 runs despite starting only 15 games.

Unfortunately, manager Ron Gardenhire soured on his defense after watching him make three errors in just a handful of games at shortstop and pretty much refused to play him there any longer.  Since getting sent down, Plouffe has been used all over the place.  He’s started games at all four infield spots and both outfielder corners for Rochester.  Yesterday, Gardenhire made the call himself, telling the Red Wings to shift him to first base.

From the sound of things, Plouffe will stay at first base for now.  If he gets comfortable there quickly, then he could join the Twins right after the All-Star break and take over as Justin Morneau’s primary replacement.

Still, the Twins can’t be looking at Plouffe as a long-term option there.  He does have the range to handle shortstop in the majors, and ideally, he still might end up at the position next year.  Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla both seem better equipped to play second.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.