ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Ron Gardenhire has earned a reputation over the past 10 seasons as a players' manager - which is fortunate for rookie second baseman Trevor Plouffe, who tested his manager's patience with an absent-minded defensive mistake in the Minnesota Twins' 81st loss of the season.
Plouffe lost track of the number of outs in the third inning of Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. He didn't attempt a relay to first after Howie Kendrick hit a grounder to third that could have ended the inning. Hank Conger scored on the play and Kendrick was credited with his 51st RBI.
Plouffe apologized to Twins starter Kevin Slowey (0-4) after the inning ended.
``Slowey pitched well and he doesn't deserve that,' Plouffe said. ``Bottom line, it's just a stupid play. Every play is big. But we all know that mistakes happen. Gardy said: 'Forget about it. You've got a big at-bat coming up. Let's go.' That's what a good manager would say. That's what he said to me and that's what I did. I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen again to me.'
Angels right fielder Torii Hunter played six seasons for Gardenhire, helping him win four of his six division titles with Minnesota. So Hunter knows Plouffe's gaffe won't linger with Gardenhire very long.
``Gardenhire lets his players play,' Hunter said. ``When I played for him, he just let us play and made us feel comfortable. When we were under Tom Kelly, T.K. was a control guy and it was harder for that talent to come out - from everybody. A lot of guys were terrified of Tom Kelly. But when Gardenhire became the manager, he said: 'Let's have fun.''
This season has been quite a turnaround for last year's AL manager of the year. The injury-riddled Twins are 23 games under .500 and looking toward next year after losing 22 of their last 29 games.
``Gardy's an even-keeled guy, but I promise you, he's pulling his hair out because all he wants to do is win,' Hunter said. ``But he's never made any excuses - not even once. You wish that things could be different for them this year, but he's going to keep developing these guys and keep showing them how to play the game.'
At the very least, the Twins are getting a long look at the depth they have in the minor leagues. But Gardenhire still expects Plouffe and fellow rookies Ben Revere, Larry Hughes, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Rene Rivera to perform at a high level.
``We're not done yet, so I'm not going to really sit back and reflect until the end of the season,' Gardenhire said. ``We've tried to look at some of the good things, and there hasn't been a lot of them. Nothing has worked out too well. I mean, you make plans coming out of spring training - kind of a template, as they say - and we threw the template away a long time ago.'
Bobby Abreu homered and Hunter and Vernon Wells added insurance runs with RBI singles in the eighth inning, helping the Angels remain 3 1/2 games behind Texas in the AL West. Joel Pineiro (6-6) earned his first victory in almost two months, and rookie Jordan Walden followed Scott Downs out of the bullpen with a hitless ninth to get his 28th save in 37 chances.
Pineiro allowed a run and five hits over seven innings. The right-hander, making his third start since a brief demotion to the bullpen, was 0-3 with a whopping 10.30 ERA in six starts since beating Seattle 9-3 on July 9 at Angel Stadium.
Slowey allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. Twins catcher Joe Mauer returned to the lineup as the designated hitter, going 1 for 2 with a homer and two walks after missing two games because of an upper respiratory infection.
Mauer got the Twins on the board in the fourth with his second home run of an injury-plagued season that has limited the three-time AL batting champ to just 73 games. He had a career-high 28 homers in 2009, when he was the AL MVP.
Abreu connected in the first for his seventh homer, hitting a towering drive to right field on a 3-2 pitch that ended up in the back of the old Angels bullpen. It ended a home run drought of 18 games and 60 at_bats since his tiebreaking two-run shot against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Aug. 9 in New York.
``They'd been flipping him away, flipping him away, and it looked like he was kind of reaching out there and diving at it,' Gardenhire said. ``Then I think they tried to go in on him. They centered it toward the middle part of the plate and he whacked it. Other than that, he threw the ball really good.'
NOTES: The Twins will select the contracts of RHP Kyle Waldrop and OF/INF Brian Dinkelman from Triple-A Rochester on Monday before their doubleheader against Chicago. On Tuesday, they will select the contract of RHP Liam Hendriks from Rochester before he makes his big league debut. ... Downs has not allowed an earned run in 27 2-3 career innings against Minnesota, spanning 26 appearances.
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