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Twins notebook, 5/27

May 28, 2011

Casilla earns start at short with strong bat

MINNEAPOLIS — His offensive struggles got Alexi Casilla taken out of the role as the Twins’ everyday shortstop. After a couple strong games at the plate while playing second base, Casilla found himself back at shortstop Friday against the Angels.

It was Casilla’s first start at shortstop since May 1, after playing 20 games at short in April.

“Swinging the bat, he’s aggressive,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think he looks more comfortable in the infield, hopefully he’ll look OK tonight at shortstop. At second base he looks more comfortable, we’ll move him back over there because he’s swinging.”

Casilla was joined up the middle by Michael Cuddyer, who was back in the Twins lineup Friday after missing two games with a strained right hip.

Over his last three starts, Casilla has gone 5-for-9 with a double and two runs scored. He’s raised his average over that time from .184 to .215.

“If Alexi stays aggressive with the bat like he has and drives the ball like he has, that’s fun to watch,” Gardenhire said. “That’s kind of what we were hoping for.”

Plouffe sits after struggles on field

MINNEAPOLIS — With the Twins leading by three runs Monday, shortstop Trevor Plouffe made a pair of miscues that helped the Mariners cut the deficit and eventually come back and win.

Plouffe hasn’t seen the field since.

First, he double-pumped on a throw and allowed Jack Wilson to reach on an error, and later let an Ichiro Suzuki popup land in front of him, allowing a runner to score from third. In both instances, Plouffe was not aggressive enough to make the play.

“You have to be aggressive,” Plouffe said before Friday’s game against the Angels. “I think that I am that player, I think that I had an inning where I wasn’t aggressive and clearly it was taken as it being that’s how I play, and that’s really not how I play. I feel like I am aggressive, I can play every day, I know.”

Plouffe’s defense, along with the way Alexi Casilla has hit lately, and the return of Michael Cuddyer at second base, have left Plouffe on the bench. He had previously started six straight games at shortstop for the Twins and 13 total games since being called up May 6.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Plouffe have talked since his defensive miscues Monday night, and they’ve discussed the need for the shortstop to be aggressive while in the field. It’s also been made clear to Plouffe that when he is at short, he needs to be the leader of the infield defensively.

“He’s working on it,” Gardenhire said of Plouffe’s leadership. “First we’ve got to get him comfortable. But as I told him, ‘You need to run the infield. … Get out there and take charge.'”

Talking with reporters before Friday’s game, Gardenhire discussed the need to balance fielding the team he thinks had the best chance to win and getting Plouffe some time as well, while keeping him from getting discouraged about a couple mistakes.

“He’s in the Major Leagues, he’s got to be ready to handle whatever we throw at him,” Gardenhire said of Plouffe. “We’re trying to win ball games. We’re trying to get a feel for the people out there that can get it done. So now he comes off the bench, that’s a role too. Tonight he’s sitting on the bench, he may start at shortstop tomorrow.”

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