Saturday, March 5, 2011

The middle infield alignment is set

Ron Gardenhire said today that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be the second baseman, which makes Alexi Casilla the shortstop.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka: No. 1 on his uniform,
No. 2 in the lineup,
No. 4 in scoring parlance.
Nishioka and Casilla have been linked together this spring; they start games together and they sit out games together. They did two games with Casilla at shortstop and Nishioka at second, then two games with Nishioka at short and Casilla at second.

This was foreseeable. Nishioka had a throwing error at short, and his throwing arm is said to be clearly weaker than Casilla's. Gardenhire has said in the past that he thinks Casilla is better suited for short than for second.

Gardy, quoted in Joe Christensen's blog:

"I just wanted to see [Nishioka] out there moving around, and I wanted to see his arm strength," Gardenhire said. "It’s not like I said, 'He can’t throw from [shortstop].' 
"I talked to Nishioka and got him to admit that he’s more comfortable at second, and that pretty much told me what I needed. More than any of the drills, I wanted him to say something to me, and I knew it would take time. He always says, 'Whatever you want me to do.'"

One aspect: It appears to foreclose on Luke Hughes' chances to find a lineup spot. Hughes is limited to playing third base or second base, and those spots are spoken for. If Casilla flops as a shortstop and Gardenhire wants to keep Nishioka locked in at second, the primary in-house option figures to be Trevor Plouffe.

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