3/19/2014 1:00 A.M. ET
Florimon returns, to get plenty of work moving forward
Twins shortstop plays in first game since appendectomy, will try to gear up quickly
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Twins made their usual round of mass substitutions in the top of the sixth inning against the Rays on Tuesday night, seven new positions players trotted out onto the field at Hammond Stadium.
But Pedro Florimon was the lone position player to remain in the game, as the shortstop has plenty of catching up to do after having his appendix removed on Feb. 17.
Florimon played in his first Grapefruit League game on Tuesday since undergoing laparoscopic surgery to remove his appendix, and now he has to show he'll be ready for Opening Day on March 31 against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Florimon showed some rust as he struggled at the plate, going 0-for-3 with three groundouts, including a run-scoring double play in the second inning. He ended up playing six innings at shortstop before being replaced by Eduardo Escobar in the top of the seventh.
"It was nice to see Florimon," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "His legs were a little wobbly. On a ball up the middle, he stumbled a little bit. So he just has to get his legs underneath him."
The Twins still believe Florimon has enough time to get ready for the start of the season, but he still has plenty to prove with just 11 Grapefruit League games remaining after Tuesday's 11-3 loss to the Rays.
Florimon played in eight innings over two Minor League games over the weekend, and he was scheduled to make his debut on Monday before Minnesota's game against the Orioles in Sarasota was rained out.
"He has to move around and be able to hit, and get his timing down," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He has to show he's able to compete at the big league level."
Antony added that as long as Florimon doesn't suffer any setbacks related to the appendectomy, he believes that he'll be ready for Opening Day.
"I believe so," Antony said. "Instead of playing for a month half the time, he'll play all the time for 10 days."
Gardenhire anointed Florimon as his starting shortstop early in spring, but Florimon's appendectomy came on the first day of pitchers and catchers working out on Feb. 17, so he never even had chance to officially work out with the club before the surgery.
Florimon, 27, was the club's starting shortstop last season, when he hit .221/.281/.330 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 134 games. He fared much better defensively, ranking second among all Major League shortstops in the advanced metric Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs.com.
The Twins would like to see more offense from Florimon this season, but his defense remains his calling card.
"If you're relying on him to hit .280, you're barking up the wrong tree," Gardenhire said. "If we can get him to .250, .240 -- those are just numbers I'm throwing out there -- and doing all the little things with the bat, I'd be happy with that as long as everybody else does their part."
Florimon understands that improving on offense will be important for him this season, as his solid defense isn't enough.
The Twins have prospect Danny Santana, who impressed in Spring Training, waiting in the wings, as he's expected to start the year at Triple-A Rochester but needs to work on cutting down on his errors.
Escobar could also start the season at shortstop if Florimon isn't deemed ready, especially with non-roster invitee Jason Bartlett going 0-for-24 in Grapefruit League play so far. But the Twins plan to give Florimon as much playing time as possible leading up to Opening Day with the hope he'll be ready for the regular season.
"We just have to get him at-bats," Gardenhire said. "He'll be playing pretty much almost every game. We'll just kind of build him up."