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.

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.