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Twins Searching For Answers at Short and Center

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ID:	7208Out of the 276 major-league players that accrued 300 or more plate appearances last year, Pedro Florimon and Aaron Hicks ranked 257th and 261st in OPS, respectively.

Although they made up for it somewhat with strong defense at key positions, both were among the worst hitters in baseball, so it was puzzling that the Twins entered this season without much in the way of backup plans at either shortstop or center field.

Unfortunately, Florimon and Hicks have both been offensive liabilities early on, and their lackluster production now has the club scrambling for potential replacement options.

Florimon showed little with the bat last season; this year, he missed half of spring camp and didn't hit when he started playing. That has carried into the regular season, where he's batting .150 with a .469 OPS through 16 games.

Hicks, trying to rebound from a disastrous rookie campaign, once again excelled in spring training and has once again gone flat in the regular season.

Entering Sunday's game against Kansas City, he had been hitting the ball into the ground in 58 percent of his at-bats. He proceeded to tap into three more ground ball outs from the left side in an 0-for-4 effort that dropped his average to .167.

In 36 at-bats as a lefty hitter, Hicks has three hits -- all singles. Although he's reading pitches a bit better, his swing from that side of the plate continues to look hopelessly ineffective. He's not driving the ball or generating any lift.

The Twins will give him every chance to find himself at the dish, but patience does appear to be wearing thin. They were unimpressed enough with Darin Mastroianni -- who hasn't been the same since last year's foot injury -- that they designated him for assignment and claimed Sam Fuld, who himself had been the victim of a 40-man roster squeeze in Oakland.

Fuld is an excellent defensive player but he's been a pretty lousy hitter, with a .233/.312/.334 line in 373 MLB games. It sounds like the Twins want to use his lefty bat some against right-handers, spelling Hicks from his weaker side, but Fuld has a .637 career OPS against righties.

Needless to say, assistant GM Rob Antony's statement that he hopes Fuld can "add a little life to the offense" is a damning indictment that speaks only to how lifeless Hicks' bat has been.

The same can be said of a similar quote Antony had about the acquisition of Eduardo Nunez, who came over from the Yankees in return for minor-league pitcher Miguel Sulbaran.

"We believe he's an upgrade over some guys we have," Antony said of Nunez, which again speaks to the sad present state of the position in question. Nunez has a career OPS+ of 87, meaning he's been well below average, and he's also reputed as one of the worst defensive infielders in the league.

It's not hard to see why the Yankees were willing to part with him, yet he still might be the most feasible replacement if Florimon continues to contribute nothing offensively.

At shortstop, Florimon is a standout defender on a unit that has looked quite shaky at times. That's earning him some extra leash, just as Hicks' youth and ability have done for him in center. But ultimately if these two don't find some semblance of a rhythm at the plate, the Twins will have to look elsewhere.

As their recent moves suggest, right now they don't like what they're seeing.

~~~

Since the Twins were able to avoid a sweep by thumping the Royals on Sunday, you can get 50% off a L or XL pizza from PapaJohns.com all day Monday if you use the 'TWINSWIN' promo code.

Or maybe you've got a free pizza coming? On Monday morning we'll be drawing and announcing 10 winners for our Pizza Party contest, so if you participated, check in to see if you're among the recipients of a free dinner.
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