CLEVELAND - When Alexi Casilla was on the bench in May, hitting
.188 and blowing yet another opportunity to keep a starting job
given to him during the offseason, the
Twins infielder recalled something
he learned as a young boy in the Dominican Republic.
"I created my own strike zone," he said.
He's still using it, as well he should. The concept helped
Casilla break a horrible slump - one he uncharacteristically
carried into the Steve Carlton Throwback Jersey field - and moved him back into Minnesota's
long-term plans. He'll get to put it back into use tonight after
being activated from the disabled list for the opener of a
three-game series against the Cleveland Indians.
"You create a circle," he explained. "I don't remember who told
me that, but it was in Little League. I was 13. When they told me,
I started using it and it really worked.
"When I came up from the bench (this season), I started doing
that, and it was working. I'm still doing it. It makes you hit more
in the strike zone. Anything out of the circle, you just let it go;
it's going to be a ball."
Casilla leads all
Twins middle infielders with a .259
batting average, but since May 24 - when manager Ron Gardenhire
started playing him regularly again - Casilla is batting .292 (64
for 219) with 19 doubles and 21 walks. In a season defined by
injuries, underachievement and failed offseason moves, Casilla's
renaissance stands out.
Given one last chance to prove he's an everyday infielder, he
finally seems to have taken hold of the opportunity.
"He has always had the skills," general manager Bill Smith said.
"He can run, he can field, he can hit. And from mid-May through
July, he showed us he can play at this level, and that he can be a
catalyst on this team moving forward."
Early this season, Casilla was so lost at the plate that he had
a different plan in nearly every at-bat.
"Every at-bat I had a plan, like, 'OK, this at-bat I'm going to
hit the ball to left field.' They pitched me in, groundout to
second, I lost my at-bat," he said. "For five days I started
working on pulling the ball; they started throwing outside.
"The thing is, you have to be ready for any pitch. So when I
started playing again, I was ready for any pitch. I was just
reacting - outside pitch, I was hitting doubles to left-center
field. They pitch me inside, off the wall - things like that. I was
"I just remembered that from Little League. That's a good
It's funny Matt Williams Throwback Jersey that a technique recalled from Little League helped
Casilla regain his swagger, because he never has seemed more like a
veteran. Tug McGraw Throwback Jersey At 27, he is one of the longer-tenured
Twins, with the organization since
arriving in a Dec. 9, 2005, trade with the Los Angeles Angels for
reliever J.C. Romero. But it's not just that.
Within the past few months, 'Lexi, as the manager affectionately
calls him, has become one of the players Gardenhire knows he can
"I think we're seeing a player, again, come out and do those
things, which gives you that feeling that, 'He's solid,' "
Gardenhire said. "And I know one thing: When he went down, we
really, really missed him, and that should tell you a little bit
about 'Lexi Casilla."
After Casilla regained his spot as an everyday player - at
shortstop Mel Ott Throwback Jersey until Tsuyoshi Nishioka returned from a broken leg, at
second base thereafter - the
Twins went 34-24 until Casilla hit
the disabled list with a hamstring injury on July 28. Since then,
Twins are 2-9.
This road trip, which moves to Detroit on Robin Roberts Throwback Jersey Monday, represents the
Twins' absolute last chance to get
back into the American League Central race. There's no doubt
they'll need Casilla to make a run. Besides being an above-average
infielder, he had been part of an effective 1-2 punch at the top of
the lineup, batting second behind either Denard Span or Dave Dravecky Throwback Jersey Ben
If all goes well, the
Twins will activate not only
Casilla but first baseman Justin Morneau as well. Morneau hasn't
played since Royal Daulton Throwback Jersey June 9 because of neck, arm and hand injuries.
Though it seems certain Casilla will be a part of Minnesota's
plans next season - he won't be a free agent until 2013 - the
player won't speculate. No one, he said, has Barry Bonds Throwback Jersey a hold on a job,
except "maybe Joe Mauer." No one knows that better than Casilla,
who was given the second base job out of spring training in 2009,
only to lose it a month later.
"Every day I'm going to be here, working hard and trying to just
get on base and score some runs - to win games, day by day. I don't
care about next year, or next season, because nothing is sure.
"I had my spot before. They said, 'That's your base.' Sooner or
later, something happened, I'm not playing. You have to work hard
Minor leaguer suspended:
Twins minor league first Tony Gwynn Throwback Jersey baseman
Kennys Vargas was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's
Vargas was hitting .322 with six home runs and 33 RBIs for
Rookie League Elizabethton.
Follow John Shipley at twitter.com/shipleykid .
NO 'O' ZONE
In the land of
Twins middle infielders, the guy
hitting .259 is king. Here's a look Tim McCarver Throwback Jersey at the team's regular middle
infielders this season - not including occasional second baseman
Michael Cuddyer - and their numbers:
Player G Avg. R RBIs E*
Alexi Casilla 96 .259 52 21 5
Luke Hughes 61 .233 18 15 1
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 53 .217 9 16 9
Matt Tolbert 65 .213 18 11 3
Trevor Plouffe 38 .202 22 16 4
* errors recorded while playing second base or shortstop