Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Now that it's fixed, fix it again

Alexi Casilla was handed the shortstop job this spring,
lost it, won it back, and now is to be stripped of it yet again.
When Tsuyoshi Nishioka reported to Fort Myers to rehab his fractured leg more than a month ago, the Twins chose to work him at shortstop, not second base.

That made eminent sense. Shortstop at the time was a gaping wound. Alexi Casilla had fumbled the job away; the organization has never taken Matt Tolbert very seriously as a shortstop candidate; Trevor Plouffe, who hadn't impressed anyone in years of Triple A ball, was about to get a look in the majors and demonstrate why he hadn't impressed anyone in years of Triple A ball.

Today Nishioka is with the Triple A team himself, apparently just days away from rejoining the major league team.

And shortstop is no longer a gaping wound. Casilla has been one of the keys to the team's 10-game surge. He's playing a cleaner game at short now than he did in April, and he's raised his batting average more than 90 points since his last game in April (.167 then, .263 this morning). Had he hit .260 and played this well in the field in April, I doubt the Twins would have worked Nishioka at short for six weeks.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Twins are about to violate that bit of wisdom by pulling Casilla out of the shortstop job, and there are good reasons to do so.

Making Nishioka the second baseman was a snap decision made early in spring training on little direct evidence. He got hurt making a double play pivot, which was something the Twins had grown concerned about as the exhibition schedule progressed and they saw signs that he was leaving himself vulnerable to aggressive slides.

If he can handle shortstop, the Twins are in better shape moving forward into 2012 and beyond.  Even if Casilla's surge proves to be just another tease, second base is easier to fill than shortstop.

The risk is if Nishioka can't handle short, if the Twins find themselves back in their April-May nightmare of unmade plays in the middle infield. Then the current sense that this team is about to make a summertime run back up the standings will prove illusionary.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's the right thing to do but I also think Gardy's going to have a short rope if he's struggling and will put Casilla right back there given his recent play.