Friday, April 1, 2011

Counting on Casilla

Perhaps the most significant unknown greeting the Twins tonight when they open the 2011 season is shortstop.

Yes, there is uncertainty about the middle relief, and nobody can be sure how durable Justin Morneau's noggin will be. But bullpens are easily remade on the fly, and No. 33 is at least in the lineup.

Alexi Casilla:  His
third, and probably last,
chance to establish
himself as a regular.
But this is the third time Alexi Casilla has been handed a regular's job. The first two times he gave it back.

Now he's being counted on to handle not second base but shortstop, the more difficult defensive spot.

From the neck down, he's fully capable of handling the job. He has the feet, the hands and the arm to play short. He won't hit with the departed J.J. Hardy's power, but he's quite capable of sporting a higher on-base percentage than last year's regular.

The problem is from the neck up. Casilla has a history of mental lapses — losing track of the outs, failing to cover a base.

The idea appears to be that he can be cured of such miscues by adding responsibilities to his assignment. Ron Gardenhire is big on the notion that the shortstop runs the infield; Jason Bartlett wasn't assertive enough for Gardy. Theoretically, if it falls to Casilla to tell Tsuyoshi Nishioka which of them is covering second on a steal, Casilla is bound to know when it's his chore.

We shall see in the coming weeks if this works. If Casilla can keep his head in the game, I don't think the Twins will have any falloff at the position. His talents are differently shaped than Hardy's but not necessarily less useful.

If he doesn't, the Twins have a problem. The most likely in-house candidate, Trevor Plouffe, had a brutal spring training; more important, he's about to begin his fourth season in Triple A and has yet to do anything there there to make the Twins want to give him a shot.

If Casilla fails, the Twins will be looking for outside help yet again to patch the position.

1 comment:

  1. It appears Pat Reusse has already written Casilla off. (But I've written Reusse off quite a while ago myself.) I tend to think this is going to be Alexi's year. I think he's matured a lot and will keep his head on straight. He'll be the man the Twins are looking for at short.