BRADENTON, Fla. – Buck Showalter couldn’t wait to get his hands on Alexi Casilla. After talking with Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire at last December’s winter meetings, Showalter was excited.
“Gardy says it killed him to lose Casilla,” Showalter said.
Gardenhire’s evaluation skills are admired in baseball circles, and Showalter was convinced.
Casilla, who was put on waivers by the Twins and quickly snapped up by the Orioles in November, was not expecting the move.
“Oh yeah, I was surprised. That day my agent called me and said the Twins put me on waivers and the Orioles picked me up. I was kind of sad for the moment because I wasn’t expecting that,” Casilla said.
“I played for the Twins like six years. When you play that long for a team, you feel like a family. I thought. I didn’t do like a really, really good job because I was the starting second baseman. I lost the starting job.”
Casilla batted .241 in 106 games, the most he’s ever played. He has little power, hitting a home run and driving in 30 runs.
“It’s not easy when you’re the backup. It’s not the same when you don’t see a pitcher every day. It’s not the same when you only see a pitcher once a week, so if I was a backup, I think I did good.”
He was happy that the Orioles claimed him.
“I feel great, a new organization, a lot of stuff that I work on, they do it in a different way so now I’ve got to pay attention to the details here.”
So far, Brian Roberts has started all the home games at second base, Casilla all the road games, some at second, others at short.
On Friday, he played shortstop and went 1-for-2 with two runs scored. Casilla was hit by a pitch in the third inning.
“I’m the just in case guy,” Casilla said with a smile.
“I’ll be there. They’re going to need me somehow. On the bases, pinch-run, late innings where they need me to steal a base.”
“You can expect the unexpectable,” he laughs.
“I only know I’m here because of Roberts, just in case, you know, but I know I can steal some bases. I think I know when to go.”
Casilla has an 88 percent lifetime success rate on steals. He’s swiped 71 of 80, and last year, he 21-for-22 and was thrown out only once when Detroit’s Alex Avila nabbed him—or as Avila says, he threw himself out.
“I passed the base. I beat the throw, and I was safe,” Casilla points out.
The Orioles, who were last in the majors with 58 stolen bases, and with Casilla around, they’re looking to avoid that distinction this season.
He stole second base in the third inning against Pittsburgh, his first of the spring.