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Twins notebook: Plouffe relives old days on bus

MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor Plouffe put a unique spin on the tradition of rehabbing big leaguers buying the postgame spread while on rehab stints in the minors.

MINNEAPOLIS - Trevor Plouffe put a unique spin on the tradition of rehabbing big leaguers buying the postgame spread while on rehab stints in the minors.

Over the weekend in Allentown, Pa., the Twins' third baseman arranged for a food truck from a local cheesesteak joint to swing by the visiting clubhouse at Coca-Cola Park after Triple-A Rochester's game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He got the idea from San Francisco Giants reliever Sergio Romo.

"I don't know him but I read that he did it," Plouffe said. "He did a taco truck, and I thought it was really cool. I wanted to do a taco truck but we were in Pennsylvania, so I figured cheesesteaks were probably the regional food there. It was pretty seamless."

This followed Plouffe-a-Palooza, which the Red Wings dubbed the rare 4{-hour bus ride that included an active major leaguer.

"I've been on a lot of bus rides," said Plouffe, whose pro career began in 2004. "It was nice to go back and have another one of those and relive the Rochester days."

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Just like the old days, Plouffe organized marathon card games along with the ID game.

"Everyone puts their ID into a bag, and the last person out wins the pot, so it's pretty cool," Plouffe said. "Some really fun guys down there."

Fully recovered from a fractured rib suffered five weeks ago, Plouffe played in five games for the Red Wings and hit .316 (6 for 19) with a home run and two doubles.

BUXTON'S BURDEN

A day after sending Byron Buxton back to Triple-A on Sunday, Twins manager Paul Molitor said the organization is looking for constructive feedback from the talented young center fielder.

"We're trying to get Buck to be as open as he can be in terms of, 'What seems to be your biggest difference between here and when you go down to Triple-A and get things back on track?' " Molitor said. "I think some of it does have to do with expectation and pressure and it builds from game to game, at bat to at bat, when things aren't going your way."

In four separate big-league stints over the past 14 months, Buxton has failed to hit higher than .217 or reach base at batter than a .257 clip. In order, he has received 39, 99, 49 and 169 plate appearances in four separate stints.

Of 271 major leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances since June 7, only two aging vets (Juan Uribe and A.J. Pierzynski) had lower OBPs than Buxton's .231. His .163 batting average was tied with Toronto's Justin Smoak for lowest in the majors in that same time period.

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"Yes we want our young players we hope are part of our future to get experience up here but at what cost?" Molitor said. "I think there's a time when they have to go back there and do what they need to do. I know he'll do the work, but just get back to where he's confident and uses the skills that he has and just plays the game."

TRIPLE THE FUN

Molitor is no longer the only member of the 3,000-hit club to reach that milestone with a triple.

That's OK. He was more than happy on Sunday to welcome Ichiro Suzuki to that exclusive subgroup.

"It was a good day for me to hear the news about my friend," said Molitor, who was Ichiro's hitting coach in 2004 with the Seattle Mariners. "That makes it kind of special (after) kind of a little bond that we developed 12 years ago. We can stay connected with that triple as well."

Molitor sent a congratulatory text to Ichiro, using three different numbers their mutual agent, John Boggs, provided. Confirmation came Monday that the Japanese hit machine had indeed received Molitor's well wishes.

Ichiro mentioned several times during his postgame news conference on Sunday how honored he was to join Molitor with a triple for hit No. 3,000. While Molitor had to hustle on his misplayed fly ball in Kansas City on Sept. 16, 1996, Ichiro's hit high off the wall at Coors Field in Denver.

"He hit it a lot better," Molitor said. "Both of them the right fielder had a chance, but mine was a lot more luck than his was luck."

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JAY GETS RESULTS

Tests on Double-A Chattanooga left-hander Tyler Jay showed nerve irritation in his neck, according to Twins farm director Brad Steil.

There had been concern about Jay's throwing shoulder after he landed on the disabled list a week ago, but recent tests seem to have ruled that out. Instead, it was the neck issue that was causing Jay's shoulder weakness.

It's still possible that Jay will return to game action before the minor-league season ends in early September. The Twins "will see how the rehab goes after this calms down," Steil said of a prospect ranked No. 2 in the Twins system by MLB.com.

Jay, who received a $3.89 million signing bonus as the sixth overall pick in 2015 out of the University of Illinois, went 5-5 with a 2.84 earned run average in 13 starts at Class A Fort Myers. Over his final five starts before moving to the bullpen for the Lookouts, he had a 6.55 ERA with five homers allowed in 22 innings.

BACK AT TARGET

The last time Hector Santiago pitched at Target Field, the veteran left-hander retired just two batters and was yanked after 30 pitches.

Brian Dozier reached on a two-out bloop double and Torii Hunter highlighted a five-run first inning with a three-run homer. Santiago, however, was taken off the hook when Mike Trout hit a pair of homers, including a second-inning grand slam off A.J. Achter, as the Los Angeles Angels roared back for an 11-8 win last Sept. 17.

"At that time I was struggling," Santiago recalled as he prepared for his Twins home debut on Tuesday. "I think I had a two-week span where I wasn't throwing very well and nothing was going right. Then Dozier hit that infield-fly double, and everything went downhill after that."

In five career outings (four starts) at Target Field, Santiago has a 7.13 earned run average with four home runs and nine walks allowed in 17„ innings. That's his highest ERA in any American League park and any big-league park where he's worked at least five innings.

BRIEFLY

Joe Mauer and Max Kepler were named co-players of the week for the American League after a dominant four-game series in Cleveland. For the week, Kepler hit .370 with four home runs, 11 runs batted in, six walks and nine runs scored. Mauer hit .560 with six doubles, a homer and nine RBIs. Kepler joins Danny Santana (2014), Carlos Gomez (2008) and Marty Cordova (1995) as Twins rookies to win the award.

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