July 13, 2009

This is do or die for Casilla, Twins

The Twins announced after Sunday's game that they have called up infielder Alexi Casilla from Triple-A Rochester while sending down Matt Tolbert. Casilla was pulled out of Sunday's game after hitting a first inning home run. He hit .340/.379/.449 this year in Triple-A Rochester with nine extra-base hits and nine stolen bases in forty games. He continued to show some struggles on defense, but as long as he plays hard, I'm sure Gardenhire will keep him in the lineup.

Tolbert saw more time than needed in Minnesota, playing in 48 games while racking up 129 at-bats. He hit just .178/.272/.225 while getting spot starts at both shortstop and second base. Tolbert's hustle didn't amount to much production on the field. Tolbert is what he is. He's a light hitting utility player who is on the verge of being a Quad-A player and a backup player, but having him hit second more than he hit anywhere else is beyond absurd. And being that Ron Gardenhire is a "go by the splits/numbers" guy, why not bat him eighth? Tolbert hit .289/.372/.368 in that spot. Although I doubt it was a pressure thing (since he had terrible numbers batting ninth), he had no reason to be batting second.

La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggests that Casilla being promoted is an indication that the Twins will not be able to pull off a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

While he has more information than any of us, and I value that opinion, that may not necessarily the case here. If the team can get him to show even flashes of what we saw in the first-half of the '08 season, they could boost his trade value immensely. While we know the Twins would probably want to hold onto him (for money purposes as he's still cheap), it's known that he's been in Gardenhire's doghouse on several occasions and could benefit both himself and the team from a change of scenery.

The Twins may also find out for sure if they need to pull the trigger on a trade for (lets say) Sanchez if Casilla struggles. The Twins know second base is an area of concern and an area that needs to be addressed if the team intends on making a push for the playoffs.

The Pirates could also be asking the Twins to call him up at their own request. Casilla has been mentioned in many speculated rumors (mostly amongst fans) and would likely be apart of any trade for Sanchez. The Pirates may want to see him up at the Major League level instead of the minor leagues where it's harder to get a proper evaluation.

Casilla's chances are dwindling, but I think that regardless of how he performs, his days in Minnesota could be coming to an end.