MINNEAPOLIS -- With another hit by pitch in Friday's 4-0 loss to the Tigers, Josh Willingham leads the American League by a sizable margin in getting plunked by pitches.
Willingham has been hit 12 times this year entering Saturday, which is almost twice as many as Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava, who ranks second in the league with seven hit by pitches.
But it's nothing new for Willingham, who has been hit by 101 pitches in his career to rank tied for 13th with Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder on the active list. He's reached double digits in hit by pitches in seven of the last eight years, including a career-high 16 times in '07 with the Marlins.
"He's on the plate and is not one of those guys who shies away from it," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He doesn't move. But it's happened throughout his career and I know he's been hit quite a bit this year."
Plouffe gets start at third base in return to Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- After being activated from the 15-day disabled list following Friday's game, Trevor Plouffe made his return to the lineup on Saturday, starting at third base and batting sixth.
Plouffe had a big day offensively, going 3-for-3 with a homer, double, three RBIs and two runs scored to help the Twins to a 6-3 win.
It marked the first game for Plouffe since May 21, when he suffered a concussion after being kneed in the head by Braves second baseman Dan Uggla while trying to break up a double play. He was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list as a result and was all set to make his return on May 29, but strained his left calf before the game and was placed on the 15-day DL without returning to action.
So Plouffe, who turned 27 on Saturday, was happy to be back in the lineup after going 5-for-15 with a homer in four games at Triple-A Rochester as part of his rehab assignment.
"I feel good," Plouffe said. "I was able to get some good at-bats down in Rochester against some good pitchers. So I felt comfortable. Hopefully it's something I can bring here and have some success and help the team win."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also was glad to have Plouffe back, as the Twins saw a lack of production at third base in Plouffe's absence. Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar combined to hit just .114 (10-for-88) while filling in at third base for Plouffe.
"He played down there and the reports were good," Gardenhire said "He was swinging good and running good. So all we can do is run him out there and throw back in the fire, as we say."
Twins give Thomas a chance at leadoff spot
MINNEAPOLIS -- Center fielder Clete Thomas made his first start of the season in the leadoff spot for the Twins on Saturday against the Tigers.
It was the first time for Thomas to bat leadoff since the 2009 season, when he was with the Tigers. Thomas started six games as leadoff hitter for Detroit in '09 after starting 13 games at leadoff in '08.
Thomas, who is filling in for Aaron Hicks in center field with Hicks on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, entered Saturday's game hitting .273 with a .304 on-base percentage in eight games.
"He's been having good at-bats," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Right now we're kind of desperate and looking for somebody to give us quality at-bats. He's been swinging the bat good, and so you take your chance."