Defense not a concern with Florimon but Twins hope his bat comes around
FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Minnesota Twins departed Fort Myers for the regular season, they did so knowing the same thing they always have about Pedro Florimon.
The team’s starting shortstop "can pick it," as manager Ron Gardenhire likes to say of the Dominican Republic native. But can he hit?
"Sometimes, he’s good," Gardenhire said. "Sometimes he’s not so good, offensively. So we’ve got some work to do to make sure he’s there offensively."
The Twins would have liked to have seen Florimon get as many spring training at-bats as possible this year, as he hit .221 (89-for-403) last season and .219 (30-for-137) in 2012.
Instead, Florimon played in just 10 Grapefruit League games after having an emergency appendectomy at the end of February. Florimon hit .185 (5-for-27) with nine strikeouts.
"That’s a big concern," Twins hitting coach Tom Brunansky said. "Pedro’s defense is going to be great. He’s going to get there.
"Now he’s trying to get his timing at the plate back. Being a switch hitter, that makes it even tougher. He has lost enough time if he were just a one-way hitter. We’re trying to speed up the process the best we can. It’s unfortunate he didn’t have that time to work."
Brunansky said he saw flashes of Florimon growing as a hitter in 2013.
"He was doing some good stuff toward the end of last year that we wanted to maintain and continue this year," Brunansky said. "Now it’s been a rush to get him ready. It’s not to say that he can’t do it. We just want him to be comfortable leaving camp.
"My mentality, being the hitting coach, is to have those 13 players we take with us ready for the regular season. Some guys are hot, and some guys aren’t. With Pedro, we just need him to get a little more comfortable at the plate."
Florimon showed no discomfort on the field this spring or last season, when he became the first Twins shortstop to log 133 games (127 starts) at the position, the most by a Twin since Jason Bartlett played 138 in 2007.
"We had gone through multiple guys who didn’t play well defensively at short," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "Now Florimon comes up, and he has played great defense. That’s what we need out of our starting shortstop. He has great range. He has a strong arm. He turns the double play well."
Florimon, 27, signed with the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 16. He toiled in the minor leagues from 2004 until 2011, when he played four games for the Orioles as a September call-up. He hit .125 (1-for-8) and was released that offseason.
"They ran him through waivers, and we claimed him," Antony said. "Then we ran him through waivers, and he cleared. We invited him to big-league camp, and he did well.
"We liked his potential. We didn’t have room on our 40-man roster, and he wasn’t coming off a great year. But we really liked him defensively. We thought we would like to have him as an option."
Florimon opened Gardenhire’s eyes as a defender during that 2012 spring training, after which he played 30 games for Double-A New Britain, 83 games for Triple-A Rochester and then 43 games in the big leagues.
"He’s picking it," Gardenhire said. "We like the way he’s playing defense. He’s a pretty good defender. If you put the ball in play, we know he’s going to be there."
Florimon said he felt fine following the appendectomy.
"I’m thankful for the opportunity I have here," Florimon said.
Antony said Florimon would continue to be a vital part of the team’s plans, especially if he can turn around the offense. Florimon has a .249 career batting average in the minor leagues and .219 in the majors.
For now, Antony said, Florimon’s solid play on defense outweighs his offensive inefficiencies.
"We have a lot of pitchers who have the ball put in play," Antony said. "We need to be strong defensively, especially up the middle. We would like Pedro to contribute more offensively. He’s a work in progress. He’s a little bit undisciplined. But he does bring so much to the table defensively. We put him down in the nine-hole, so he can work on his offense."