MESA, Ariz. — Trevor Plouffe is ready to write a new chapter in his major league career.
The former Minnesota Twins third baseman was signed by the Oakland Athletics during the offseason as a free agent after seven seasons in the Twin Cities and 13 total years in the Minnesota organization.
He was still a fan favorite in Minnesota, despite a disappointing 2016.
The Twins surprisingly released him in November after seven trips to the disabled list last season. He also had a year of arbitration eligibility remaining, which the Twins apparently determined would make him too expensive to keep.
It all adds up to a fresh start for Plouffe with a new club.
“I came in not knowing what was going to happen, but when I got here it felt like a lot of the same,” Plouffe said. “The clubhouses are similar. You’re going to have guys in here who are rooting for each other. At least, good clubhouses are like that, and that’s what we have here.”
The 30-year-old endured a frustrating final season in Minnesota. Plouffe played in only 84 games, his lowest total since 2011.
A strained muscle in his right side, a strained groin and a broken left rib caused major headaches for Plouffe. But a healthy offseason and a new clubhouse have him feeling optimistic this season.
“I probably could have come back and played the last week or so last year,” Plouffe said. “But with where we were in the standings, the training staff basically said let’s let it heal even more.”
The A’s have given him a warm welcome. He’s gotten to know his teammates through activities around the Valley, such as trips to Topgolf.
“A lot of guys made me feel welcome right away,” he said. “We took it upon ourselves to go out and bond a little bit here, which is always good.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Plouffe has handled the adjustment nicely.
“He’s really gotten along very quickly with everybody and isn’t afraid to be a resource, being that he’s a veteran guy,” Melvin said. “He’s got good instincts as far as how he handles guys.”
Plouffe credits former teammate like Torii Hunter, who retired from the Twins in 2015, for molding his clubhouse attitude.
“(Torii Hunter) was always bringing that energy and the smile and the positivity to the clubhouse every day,” Plouffe said. “It’s kind of what I’m trying to do here, you know, bring a smile every day.”
Plouffe said that same mentality was instilled in him through his former manager, Ron Gardenhire, who now is bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gardenhire was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer but is hopeful to be back with the team this season.
“(Gardenhire) was another guy who was really positive,” Plouffe said. “He just knows how to work with people. Big league managers, the good ones, that’s always a trait they have is the ability to work with people. So, he’s great in that regard.”
Plouffe’s clubhouse positivity has reflected on the field this spring. The right-hander is batting .346 in 26 at-bats with a homer and six RBIs coming into Monday night’s game against the Diamondbacks.
“He’s a true two-way player and probably does some things more so than I saw on the other side with the Twins,” Melvin said. “I kind of joked (with him) ‘you know I thought you were just a pull home run hitter’ and he kind of laughs and says ‘well I was for a while.’ You know he’s more experienced now. He handles the bat pretty well.”
Ever upbeat, Plouffe said his goal this season is to win the AL West.
“That’s the only mentality you can have,” Plouffe said. “Our lineup is long. I think our defense is going to be pretty good this year. We have young starting pitching, but talented starting pitching. So, we’ll go as far as they can take us.”