Plouffe sheds knee brace, slump

Plouffe sheds knee brace, slump

MINNEAPOLIS -- After sustaining a knee sprain on May 27 against the Mariners that forced him to miss two games, Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe had been wearing a sleeve to his protect his knee during games.

But since the injury, Plouffe fell into a slump, hitting .231 with one extra-base hit in seven games, and he decided to mix it up and try to see if he could play without the sleeve on Wednesday against the Marlins, as he felt the injury was getting into his head. It seemed to work, as Plouffe broke out by going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the third inning and a go-ahead RBI double in the seventh to lift the Twins to a 7-5 win.

"There is some nagging stuff, but I think I've let that creep into my mind too much," Plouffe said. "During the game, I didn't wear this sleeve I've been wearing on my knee, thinking it would take it off my mind. Who knows if it did, but look what happened. So I won't wear it tomorrow either."

Plouffe's RBI double

It's been a difficult season for Plouffe, whom the Twins never seriously considered trading in the offseason despite signing Byung Ho Park to be the everyday designated hitter, forcing Miguel Sano to move from his natural third-base spot to right field. Plouffe has dealt with an intercostal strain that forced him to miss 13 games in late April, and he hasn't been producing offensively, as his two-run blast off lefty Wei-Yin Chen was just his fourth of the year.

Twins manager Paul Molitor, who has been one of Plouffe's biggest supporters in the organization and didn't want to see him traded in the offseason, was pleased to see the third baseman break out of his funk.

"It was a really good sign," Molitor said. "It's been a struggle. Some of it physical, some of it mental. He's had some success up here, but you look at where he's at, and he's not where you'd think he'd be at this juncture. He's been working, and I think getting the home run helped him relax a little bit. And then he hit that power shot to the gap, which we know he can do, so it was a good sign."

Plouffe showed emotion after his RBI double off the right-field wall with two outs in the seventh, clapping his hands together once he saw Joe Mauer score the go-ahead run. He said he's hopeful this game will get him going, as he wants to be a bigger part of Minnesota's offense, which has started to look better as of late.

"I just want to contribute to wins, and I haven't been able to do that recently," Plouffe said. "It was a good team win, and I'm happy to contribute to that."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.