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Switching roles, Parmelee seeking consistency

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's easy to call the 2012 season an up and down one for Chris Parmelee.

After all, he was literally shuffled between Minnesota and Triple-A Rochester throughout the season.

Parmelee, who opened the year as the club's starting first baseman with Justin Morneau serving as designated hitter, was optioned three times before being called up in late August to finish the year with the Twins.

With a lack of regular playing time, Parmelee, 24, struggled in his rookie season, hitting .229/.290/.380 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 64 games. But he proved he could dominate in Triple-A, batting .338/.457/.645 with 17 homers and 17 doubles in 64 games.

So the Twins are hoping he can translate some of that success to the Majors with the help of consistent at-bats, as he's expected to be the club's starting right fielder in '13 after the club traded Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason.

"Parmelee needs at-bats and this gives him an opportunity to move to right field without any obstructions," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Whoever is out there will have to earn it, but I'd like to think Parmelee has graduated from Triple-A. He certainly dominated down there for that month we sent him down. So this is an opportunity for him and I hope he takes advantage of it. I believe he probably will. He needs to get at-bats. The only time he's struggled is when he is a part-time guy."

Parmelee, the club's first-round pick in the '06 First-Year Player Draft, had his breakout season in the Minors in '11, when he impressed at Double-A New Britain and earned his first September callup.

He fared well in his first stint in the big leagues, hitting .355 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 21 games. Parmelee carried that over into Spring Training in '12 and earned the job as the club's starting first baseman.

But the rookie got off to a slow start and was eventually optioned to Triple-A Rochester on May 15.

Parmelee, though, took it in stride and became one of the best hitters in the International League.

And once he got regular playing time again with the Twins late in the season, his swing started to come around, as he hit .262 with three homers, five doubles and 14 RBIs in 24 games to close the year after being called up on Aug.29.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire liked seeing those signs of improvement from Parmelee down the stretch and believes he has what it takes to be a successful big league hitter.

"I think the young man can hit," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I think he's a strong kid. He's learned to cover the ball a lot better and use the field a lot better. He's learned to get his pitch, and when he gets it, drive it. He's fun to watch. I think it's a process."

Parmelee, however, will have to adjust to becoming the club's everyday right fielder, as he's served mostly as a first baseman the last few years in the Minors.

But Parmelee has played in right field in 282 games in the Minors compared to 385 games at first base. And he has played in right in 18 games with the Twins as well. He'll also be working with a new center fielder, as Darin Mastroianni is expected to take over there while Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson will also compete for the center-field job in Spring Training.

"If you put him out there and let him play every day, he's going to get better and better," Gardenhire said. "Some of our Minor League managers have said he's a very good right field manager when he's out there a lot."

So while Parmelee had his fair share of ups and downs in '12, Gardenhire is excited about the chance to see what Parmelee can do this season.

"He's going to get his opportunity," Gardenhire said. "He has to swing the bat and do those things, but I'm very excited to see him. He made a lot of progress after he was sent down last year, became a pretty good hitter. I look forward to watching him."

Minnesota Twins, Chris Parmelee