With the WBC beginning this week, the Twins have a void at first base in spring training. Justin Morneau left Florida this weekend to join team Canada, but in spring training WBC absences mean opportunities for players fighting to make the roster. The beneficiary of this particular absence is minor league journeyman Jeff Clement.
It’s fitting Clement is getting a shot with the Minnesota Twins because it was the Twins‘ who drafted him out of high school over ten years ago. The 12th round draft pick opted to attend college instead and played with USC. It seemed like a wise move at the time–Clement’s draft value skyrocketed and he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners third overall in 2005.
Since then, things haven’t gone so smoothly for Clement. The catcher took a beating behind the dish and has had three knee surgeries since 2007. He played his first major league game at the young age of 23 but never found a consistent job, only playing 152 games in the last five years.
After his third knee surgery, Clement bid farewell to catching and has been trying to transition to first base. He’s been working with former manager Tom Kelly this spring training. Thus far, current manager Ron Gardenhire likes what he sees. “Since he’s been in this camp, his improvement at first base alone is unbelievable, really,” said Gardenhire on Sunday.
Over eight minor league seasons, Clement has put up respectable numbers, hitting .282 with flashes of power. Between 2007 and 2009 Clement hit 55 home runs in limited minor league action. It’s been a long tumultuous career thus far for Clement. Hopefully, things will come full circle and he’ll find a home in a Twins’ uniform. Now with incumbent first baseman away at the WBC, Clement will get an extended audition for a spot on the Twins’ bench in 2013.