MINNEAPOLIS It's been six years since the Twins had a shortstop play more than 100 games in a season. More than any other position, shortstop has been a revolving door in Minnesota from one year to the next.
Pedro Florimon is hoping to stop that trend.
Through Sunday, Florimon has made 42 starts at shortstop in 54 games this season. If he stays healthy, he's on pace to play over 100 games at shortstop, something that hasn't been done since Jason Bartlett made 135 starts there in 2007.
Perhaps the Twins have found their answer at shortstop.
"That's what I want," Florimon said. "I want to be here for a long time."
Minnesota claimed the lanky Florimon off waivers from Baltimore in December of 2011. He spent most of the 2012 season in the minors, including 83 games at Triple-A Rochester, where he batted .251 with 27 RBI and six stolen bases. He earned a call-up to the Twins in mid-August and wound up playing 43 games at shortstop to close out 2012.
One year later, Florimon has established himself as an everyday shortstop for the Twins, who have had a number of players cycle through that part of the infield over the last several years.
"I like to have consistency out there, that's for sure," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who used four different shortstops in 2012, four in 2011 and five in 2010. "Unfortunately we haven't been able to do that lately."
Florimon has always shown he can flash the leather, but his bat has been slower to progress. This season, however, he's showing that he can give the Twins a bit of offense on top of his defense. Florimon enters the week batting .256 and is tied for sixth on the team with 17 RBI. He's also tied for the team lead with six stolen bases.
If Minnesota can continue to get production like that from their No. 9 hitter, it would be an added bonus on top of Florimon's defense.
"He's confident at the plate," Gardenhire said. "He's come up with a lot of big hits. He uses the field a lot better. I think you can see the confidence in him. He's sure of himself right now."
Now with his second organization, Florimon indeed feels as if he belongs. As much as his offense is improving, so too is the Dominican Republic native's English. Still, he's nestled in the Twins' locker room alongside fellow Spanish speaker Eduardo Escobar and just down the way from Wilkin Ramirez. When Oswaldo Arcia was with the Twins, he too shared a locker near Florimon.
Florimon is now comfortable in his surroundings. As a result, Gardenhire is comfortable penciling Florimon's name into the lineup at shortstop on a daily basis.
"I'm preparing myself all the time," Florimon said. "I feel happy for that because I play every day the last year or two."
Defense in baseball isn't typically quantified the same was offense is, but advanced statistics show that Florimon's glove is indeed improving. According to FanGraphs, Florimon's ultimate zone rating (UZR) is currently 2.5, which ranks as the eighth-best among major league shortstops.
Florimon is making the plays he should be making, but he's also making some tougher plays look easy. Friday against Seattle, Florimon ranged to his left on a ground ball hit by the first batter of the game. While it was a seemingly tough play up the middle, Florimon made it appear routine.
"The one thing that we've always talked about with Florimon, he's got every skill you're looking for out of a shortstop, but it's a matter of finishing the plays. He's finishing plays," said Twins general manager Terry Ryan. "He's certainly not a guy that you have to worry about, 'All right, what's going to happen.' You don't have to guess. Offensively, he's been much better. Defensively, he's been much better."
Florimon made another slick play Thursday against Milwaukee in which he fielded a rocket with the bases loaded to record the last out of the inning. Gardenhire said it was the play of the game as it helped Minnesota preserve a three-run lead.
"If that goes through, we're up a creek," Gardehire said. "He makes a nice play, a nice feed and there you have it, got us back in the dugout. That's what defense does for you."
At just 26 years old, Florimon is still relatively young. He continues to learn on the job, soaking up advice from veteran infielder Jamey Carroll. Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier have continued to form a chemistry up the middle of the infield.
And offensively, the hits are starting to come for Florimon, who signed with Baltimore as a 17-year-old in 2004. He's done plenty of growing up since then, and the Twins are hoping he'll continue to grow into their everyday shortstop for years to come.
"He's not looking over his shoulder, thinking, I might be out of here or get sent out,'" Gardenhire said. "That's kind of a big step for a young player, a player trying to find their way, is quit looking over your shoulder and feel like you belong. I think he's pretty close to that right now. I think he feels pretty good about himself."
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