* Last week I wrote that Mike Pelfrey's struggles had a reached a point where he should be removed from the rotation
until he demonstrated legitimate signs of progress. In his next start, which came Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, that progress was plenty evident. Go figure.
Sure enough, Pelfrey delivered his best start of the season, by far, with six innings of one-run ball. His fastball flashed a couple ticks higher on the gun than we ever saw in April, and the added velocity (along with noticeably improved command) paid clear dividends.
For the first time this year, hitters seemed to struggle at times to catch up to his heater, increasing the effectiveness of his off-speed offerings. After striking out only seven hitters in his first five starts for an MLB-worst 6.5 percent K-rate, Pelfrey notched seven strikeouts Sunday, with a few coming at crucial moments. He induced a season-high 13 swings and misses.
Whether it's the warmer weather, or the kinks being worked out after a month's work, or some combination, Pelfrey looked like a different guy on Sunday. And it was an opportune time, because on the same day, three hurlers with eyes on his job – Samuel Deduno, Alex Meyer and Cole De Vries – were all pitching for minor-league affiliates.
* Trevor Plouffe displayed again in Sunday's game why he might be the team's most intriguing yet frustrating player.
His two-run homer in the second gave the Twins an early lead that stuck. The dinger was Plouffe's fourth this season, placing him second on the team behind Josh Willingham.
But in the field there was yet another lapse. In the fourth inning Asdrubal Cabrera attempted to steal third base and Joe Mauer's throw had him beat handily. Plouffe went down to apply the tag but, rather than holding his glove down, he made a quick swipe maneuver. Cabrera took advantage, stopping short with one hand and reaching around Plouffe with his other arm to touch the base safely.
It's these kinds of little things that drive Ron Gardenhire crazy. Plouffe has shown again and again that he's capable of making all the plays at third, but his flashiness and inattention to detail will do him no favors with a manager who lives and breathes fundamentals.
We've already seen Plouffe benched multiple times this season for offenses of a similar nature. Gardy's patience appears to be running thin. But at the same time the Twins can't afford to take the slugger's potent bat out of the lineup. The manager will just have to find it within himself to live with the miscues, because sliding Plouffe to the outfield no longer looks like a feasible option.
* With Sunday's win, the Twins were able to fend off the brooms in Cleveland, marking the third straight series in which they fell behind 0-2 and rebounded to avoid a sweep. To date, the Twins have only come away winless in one series – an early-April set in Kansas City. By this point last year, they'd already been swept four times.
Granted, winning one game per series is hardly ideal if it becomes an ongoing trend, but the Twins are showing some resilience, and in the process they're avoiding extended losing streaks.