07/28/12 7:15 PM ET
With Plouffe out, Valencia called up to play third
By Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Garretson / MLB.com
Recalled from Rochester after Trevor Plouffe was placed on the disabled list Friday, Valencia started at third base and hit seventh for Minnesota against Cleveland on Saturday.
He was optioned to Rochester on May 9 after struggling in 27 games with the Twins, hitting .190 with one home run and 11 RBIs. The 27-year-old hit .250 with seven homers and a team-leading 37 RBIs in 69 games with the Red Wings since.
"You never want to be sent down to the Minor Leagues," Valencia said. "Obviously you realize how nice it is up here and what you strive for and what you work for. So it's nice to be back."
Plouffe seized the opening after Valencia was sent down, recording a .920 OPS with 18 homers in 57 games since. Now, Plouffe's bruised right thumb has created another chance for Valencia.
"I don't put too much expectations on anything," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We'll see how he does out there. Go swing the bat. I told him to relax and have fun. Just like you did before -- just go play.
Valencia said he and Plouffe are close friends, and he isn't concerned with any uncertainty regarding his role after Plouffe's surge.
"It is what it is," Valencia said. "That's how it is in this game. He stepped in and he's done a great job. We're friends. We're close. We talk ... we both want each other to do well, so I'm happy."
Morneau starting to settle in at plate
MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau says his swing feels better than it has in a long time. His numbers agree.
The Twins first baseman entered Saturday's game against the Indians hitting .322 with seven doubles, 10 RBIs and 11 runs over his last 21 games. He was batting just .229 through his first 55 games before that span.
Morneau has also hit successfully in 18 of his last 21 games, including a 2-for-4 performance on Friday that included his 12th home run of the season.
"[My swing] has felt a lot better, especially since the All-Star break, having some days off," Morneau said. "It's coming along. It's been a process. It's been a lot of hard work. It's hard to say you're satisfied with anything, but it feels a lot better than it did on Opening Day and at the end of April, the end of May."
The 31-year-old has only homered three times since the beginning of June, but manager Ron Gardenhire will trade some power to see Morneau look as comfortable as he has.
"The biggest thing is not where the ball goes or how far it goes," Gardenhire said. "It's about how comfortable the guy is swinging the bat. He's healthy and he's comfortable. He's shooting the ball the other way ... He's feeling good."
Duensing looks back on Olympics experience
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left-hander Brian Duensing was reminded of his time representing the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics while watching the Opening Ceremonies for this year's Olympics in London on Friday night.
Duensing earned a bronze medal four years ago while playing for Team USA, and said it's a memory he'll never forget.
"I watched the Opening Ceremonies last night and started feeling jealous of the athletes there because I know exactly what's going through their head and how they're feeling," Duensing said. "It's a very special moment to be able to do it. Unfortunately, for baseball, it might not ever happen again. But to be there for the last one was pretty exciting."
Duensing was on a team that featured current big leaguers such as Stephen Strasburg, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Lou Marson and Dexter Fowler.
He posted a 1.17 ERA with five strikeouts and two walks in 7 2/3 innings as a reliever. But Team USA lost to Cuba in the semifinals and had to settle for bronze after beating Japan to take third place. Baseball was dropped as an Olympic sport after the 2008 Olympics.
"Beijing was unreal," said Duensing, who keeps his medal in a safe. "I met a lot of interesting athletes and playing in a different country and representing your country is amazing in itself. We won a bronze medal, which is something a lot of people can say they never did, but at the same time we were disappointed winning the bronze because we had a pretty good team."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.