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Updated: March 5th, 2011 12:08pm
Gardenhire: Nishioka will play second, Casilla will play shortstop

Gardenhire: Nishioka will play second, Casilla will play shortstop

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has seen all he needs.

Gardenhire has also heard all he needs to hear.

The manager announced Saturday that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be his permanent second baseman and Alexi Casilla will be the shortstop.

"I talked to Nishioka, and I got him to kind of finally admit to me, you know, he's more comfortable at second," Gardenhire said. "And that pretty much told me what I needed. I wanted to get that out of him, and seeing all the drills. But more than that, I wanted him to say something to me. It takes time.

"He always says, 'whatever you want me to do, whatever you want me to do.' I asked him finally the other day through Ryo, and he said second base feels more comfortable to him right now. That's good enough for me."

Nishioka played shortstop for a large chunk of his Japanese career, and he played the position twice this past week -- in Sarasota against the Orioles on Thursday, and at home in Fort Myers on Friday against the Rays, where he made a throwing error in the first inning.

"I just wanted to see him out there moving around, and I wanted to see his arm strength," Gardenhire said. "And it's not like I said, 'Oh, he can't throw from there.'"

Regarding the error, which wasn't necessarily a determining factor, Gardenhire said, "Yeah, and that's a backhand play. He caught it, moved over. But honestly, that could have been a backhand play, and it would have made everything easier. But his feet are so damn quick, he snapped over there. It's kind of unbelievable he caught it. I thought it would have hit of his chest. It just tells you his hands are pretty good."

Slightly less noteworthy, but perhaps every bit as important, is the fact that Casilla has essentially gone from last guy off the bench to starting shortstop within the span of one year.

Gardenhire is hoping Casilla's increased maturity and leadership qualities will translate to a more consistent performance on the field.

"I mean, the jury's still out whether he's going to be able to lead out there as much as you would like, but I think he has the mentality that that's going to be his job," Gardenhire said. "I believe that Alexi believes that, and that's good. that's a start. He understands that's what I like, is for him to take control. And I believe that he believes that himself, so that's good."

"And we need him," Gardenhire added. "He's kind of a big one. We'll see. I hope he handles it well. I like the way he's swinging."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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