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Plouffe's return could jam up corners

MINNEAPOLIS—Trevor Plouffe is on track to leave Monday for a rehab stint at Triple-A Rochester, giving Twins manager Paul Molitor some time to figure out how he'll get the veteran into the lineup when he returns from a broken rib suffered July 1.

"I don't have an exact, set plan how it's going to turn out," Molitor said Friday.

Plouffe was hitting .252 with six home runs and 25 RBIs when he was hit by a pitch from White Sox rookie right-hander Michael Ynoa. He hit a two-run homer late in that same game, but three days after than he landed on the disabled list. He hasn't played since.

"Since I've been doing baseball stuff, I've been pain-free," Plouffe said Friday after taking ground balls at third base at Target Field before the Twins' night game against the White Sox.

On Thursday, Plouffe took batting practice and, he said, "felt really good, man, fresh hands."

In Plouffe's absence, Miguel Sano has been ensconced at third, his natural position, playing 20 of 23 games there. In that time, he has committed a remarkable 10 errors.

Still, the Twins seem committed to seeing whether Sano can be the Twins' everyday third baseman, Plouffe's primary gig since 2013.

"We talk about how it's going to work out when Trevor comes back," Molitor said. "I think Miggy will get a lot of work at third base, but Trevor's going to get some at-bats at third base, and I have the option of putting Trevor over at first, where he's a little more comfortable than Miggy right now."

That's an intriguing comment considering Sano's defensive issues at third and his failure to adjust to playing the outfield, where the Twins put him at the season's onset to get his and Plouffe's bats in the lineup. The Twins already have Joe Mauer at first and have played Kennys Vargas there six times since he was called up in early July.

And then there is Byung Ho Park, who seems to have found his swing at Rochester, hitting eight homers in his past 10 games heading into Friday night's play.

"Park has a chance to get back here at some point," Molitor said. "There's a lot of people here. We're going to try to find a way to measure a little bit how far they've come along this year."

Back in town

Justin Morneau, who played on five division-winning Twins teams, was back at Target Field as a member of the opposition, a first for the 2007 American League MVP.

Traded to Pittsburgh after the 2011 season, Morneau played for the Colorado Rockies for two seasons before an arm injury knocked him out of action. After surgery to repair a ligament in his left elbow, he signed a free-agent deal with the White Sox with the hope he would play after the all-star break.

In 10 games, he had one homer and four RBIs and was hitting .233 as a designated hitter, where he started Friday at Target Field.

"It's different, but it's exciting," said Morneau, who still has a home in Minnesota and spends time here in the offseason. "I was driving around this morning and excited to come in, excited to play tonight. It should be fun."

Morneau, 35, returned to Target Field, where he played two seasons, as a member of the National League Home Run Derby team during the 2013 All-Star Game. But Friday marked his debut here as an opposing player. He visited the Twins clubhouse before the game, "I think just to harass the clubhouse guys," Molitor said.

Morneau remains close with Mauer, with whom he played minor and major league ball.

"Now that I've been out of the division for a couple years, if there's a pitcher that I want his insight on, I'll send him a text and say, 'What do you have on this guy?' That kind of thing," Morneau said. "Most of it's just, 'How you doing, how are the kids?'

"When you grew up on the game together the way we did, it's something that's really hard to replace."

Odd man out

Little of this bodes well for Jorge Polanco, the utility infielder called up Thursday after the Twins sent all-star Eduardo Nunez to San Francisco for Triple-A pitcher Aldaberto Majia.

Polanco, 23, has been to the big leagues three times since 2014 but hasn't played much. He's hitting .262 to with eight RBIs, eight walks and six strikeouts in 32 at-bats in 22 games with the Twins.

"I expect to get a chance to play and do well," said Polanco, who hit .276 with 13 doubles and six triples in 75 games for the Red Wings.

Barring injury, that will be tough.

"It's going to be challenging for him, still," Molitor said.

The opening left by Nunez, shortstop, isn't Polanco's specialty—he played third and second base at Rochester. Eduardo Escobar started at short Friday night, and Danny Santana is next on that depth chart.

"Polanco, for me, (shortstop) is probably his third position," Molitor said. "But, he's here, we're going to try to find him ways to get in there from time to time."

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