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Updated: May 3rd, 2011 5:01pm
Notebook: Twins shuffle middle infield; Joe Mauer increases workload

Notebook: Twins shuffle middle infield; Joe Mauer increases workload

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- The Alexi Casilla shortstop project may have come to an end.

Saddled with the worst record in baseball and a middle infield that has sputtered mightily, the Minnesota Twins are changing things up. Casilla was moved to second base for Tuesday night's game against the Chicago White Sox, with Matt Tolbert temporarily taking over shortstop duties.

"Trying a little something different," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I talked with Alexi about it. I asked him about second base and he said it's easier. We'll see ... if it's easier. I know he's always more comfortable over there too."

Casilla has struggled offensively and defensively in his first month as the starting shortstop, posting a .190/.257/.286 batting line in 71 plate appearances while also committing four errors in the field. Not to mention blowing through a stop sign at third base recently and mishandling a few other plays defensively that weren't ruled errors.

"I think he's trying to do a whole heck of a lot," Gardenhire said. "At second base maybe he'll be able to relax a little bit more and not rush things. I think he's rushed an awful lot of plays -- kind of bonsai-ed plays actually, where he just charged and charged and charged.

"Instead of reading the ball and picking out the hop, he just gets in that mode where he thinks he's got to go get it. So we'll see what happens, see what works here. We have to try something. We're missing too many plays."

Gardenhire said he told Tsuyoshi Nishioka -- who is currently working out down in Florida to rehab a broken fibula -- to start taking groundballs at shortstop as well, but he likely won't be ready to return from the disabled list for at least another couple weeks.

While the Twins wait for Nishioka, Gardenhire hinted strongly that Tolbert is essentially keeping shortstop warm for Trevor Plouffe.

"I would definitely like to bring another middle infielder up here," Gardenhire said. "And I'm going to do that, and it's probably going to be (Plouffe) ... I'm really going to try to get him in here real soon. Sooner than you can imagine."

Plouffe, who is hitting .282/.344/.590 with six home runs, four doubles and 13 RBIs in 91 plate appearances for Triple-A Rochester, had a rough spring from nearly all angles. The former first-round pick hit just .206/.216/.235, and he committed six errors in the field, with throwing being the main problem.

"People down there watching him (in Rochester) have said he's handled himself very well -- probably as good a stretch playing shortstop as we've seen," Gardenhire said. "That's what I was told."

"He had a rough spring defensively. Swinging the bat was alright, as far as I was concerned. He put some nice swings on it. But defensively it was very rough. He didn't play well. And I think he put a lot of pressure on himself, at second and at short, the role we were going to ask him to be in. I think he put a lot of pressure on himself. But to his credit, he went down and got off to a pretty good start. Once the season started he got going pretty good, and that's what you have to do."

If and when Plouffe is called up, he will likely replace Luke Hughes on the 25-man roster.

Mauer increases workouts; still no timetable

A good step for catcher Joe Mauer.

Twins trainer Dave Pruemer said Mauer "is doing well," and will begin taking light swings and throwing on Wednesday.

"We'll just progres with his hitting, see how he does with it -- hitting and throwing -- and we'll go from tehre. As long as he doesn't have any setbacks we'll move him up, but there's still no timetable."

Pruemer added, "He feels a lot better. His soreness is a lot ... gone, pretty much, in the shoulder, elbow. His knees, legs feel a lot stronger, so he feels a lot better that way."

• Nishioka began doing on-field activities in Florida on Tuesday "and will progress as tolerated."

Delmon Young (ribs) continues to work out and take batting practice at Target Field, and he's "feeling better each day," according to Pruemer. It's possible he could rejoin the team on its current road trip. "He hasn't done a lot of swinging, but he is swinging. We'll see how it goes. He had a good day (Tuesday)."

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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