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Twins beat 4/13

April 13, 2011

Hughes could supplant Casilla on occasion

MINNEAPOLIS — If Alexi Casilla doesn’t start swinging the bat better, Luke Hughes could soon find himself getting a start or two at shortstop.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire talked Wednesday morning about the possibility of using Hughes, who he sees as primarily a second or third baseman, in place of Casilla. It all hinges on Casilla’s approach at the plate.

“I like Alexi’s defense, the way he moved around last night was better, he had more energy,” Gardenhire said. “But if he continues to wave at the ball like he’s doing, I need him to swing, and I told him that again last night, ‘Swing the bat, son.'”

Through 10 games, Casilla has just three hits, good for a .143 batting average with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. Casilla has struck out just three times in 21 at-bats, with most of his outs coming on weak ground balls.

In a crucial moment Saturday, Casilla also failed to plate a run with none out and runners on the corners in the fifth inning. Casilla grounded softly back to the pitcher on the play.

“I think he’s trying not to make mistakes or trying not to do things, rather than just going [hard] again,” Gardenhire said. “Last year, that’s what he did, he just went [hard]. When he played he got out there and just had a ball playing. Right now, he looks tentative.”

What makes Casilla’s poor play and apparent tentativeness more intriguing is his play in Spring Training. Throughout the month of March, he looked just the opposite.

The other concern with Casilla is that he occasionally outthinks himself at the plate. With his speed, he can certainly beat out a bunt for a single. At the same time, he can swing the bat well enough to make corner infielders pay for playing in too far while anticipating the bunt.

All Casilla needs to do is pick one or the other and go with it.

“If you’re going to go up there and bunt, drop a bunt,” Gardenhire said. “If you’re trying to draw people in and then hit it by them, they’re already in. They’re already playing you for the bunt, you don’t need to fake bunt and swing.

“Maybe you fake swing and then bunt, but they’re already in, you don’t have to draw them in. Get a pitch and then hit it by them. Those are the things that I think Alexi was doing in spring, trying to hook balls by the first baseman and by the third baseman because they’re playing in.”

Cuddyer finally breaks loose at the plate

MINNEAPOLIS — Going into Tuesday’s series opener, Michael Cuddyer did not feel any different than he did in the nine previous games, but the difference in results was like night and day.

Cuddyer, who was batting .107 entering the game against the Royals, went 4-for-4 for the Twins, singling in each of his first four at-bats before drawing a walk in the 10th inning. That performance boosted his batting average more than 100 points, to .219.

“How do you get 4-for-4 and raise your batting average to .219?” Gardenhire asked. “So you started pretty low, right?”

The four hits for Cuddyer more than doubled his previous season total of three going into Tuesday’s game. Of course, it’s not like those four were the first balls Cuddyer hit well all season.

The only difference was that all four of them fell in safely.

“Baseball’s crazy,” Cuddyer said. “Sometimes they find the grass, sometimes they don’t. Three days ago, I hit a ball up the middle and Delmon [Young] was stealing, the second baseman was on top of the bag. Today, nobody was stealing.

“Those are the little things that make or break hits, especially this early in the season. You hit a few balls hard, line drives, they’re outs, now you’re hitting .100 on the scoreboard. You don’t have any at-bats behind you. It’s not like it’s June or July where there’s 300 at-bats, there’s 28.”

It was still encouraging for one of the Twins’ better hitters to finally get something going at the plate.

Over the last two games, the lineup has looked much improved offensively, collecting 23 hits and plating seven runs. The Twins have talked about staying patient and not panicking, and now, it looks like they’re getting back to normal this week.

“Hits are starting to come,” Gardenhire said. “Balls are starting to fall in and then the pressure goes away of trying to force things.

“It was just about adjustments. Early in the game, we didn’t make very many good adjustments. Cuddy did, he got up on the plate, covered the plate, sat on the changeup and ripped it. But that’s what the game’s all about, making a few adjustments as you see them the first time.”

Frustrated Twins finding fence hard to reach

MINNEAPOLIS — When asked about Jason Kubel’s long single Tuesday night, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he didn’t even want to get into it. Before Wednesday’s game, he shared some reactions from the dugout.

Both Kubel’s near home run and left fielder Delmon Young’s long fly out earlier in the game frustrated Twins players as they continued to have trouble hitting the ball out of Target Field.

“Some balls were hit pretty hard,” Gardenhire said. “Delmon said, ‘That’s all I’ve got.'”

Kubel and Young’s long fly balls that stayed in the park were just another example of how big the Twins’ ballpark plays. Of course, the wind Tuesday night did not help.

At game time, the wind was measured at just nine miles per hour, from right field to left, but it was clearly stronger at times, and certainly was blowing in.

“It was blowing around pretty good in there and it was knocking the balls down last night good, more so than most days or nights,” Gardenhire said. “But it was pretty entertaining to watch their reactions, win lose or draw. When Kubel hit that ball, I honestly almost turned away.

“I watched to see whether it was going to be a homer or how high it was going to hit off the wall. Then I look at the baserunner and I see him kind of catch it and I’m like ‘geez,’ because he crushed that ball. You can’t hit it any harder than he hit that one.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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