Found March 20, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
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PROJECTED STARTER Alexi Casilla, .260 BA, 4 triples, 15 SBs, 21 RBIs, 52 runs in 2011 Second base hasn't exactly been a position of consistency over the past several years for the Minnesota Twins. They haven't had the same starting second baseman on Opening Day since 2006-07, when Luis Castillo held down the job for two straight years. Since then, a combination of Brendan Harris, Alexi Casilla, Orlando Hudson and Tsuyoshi Nishioka have been Minnesota's second basemen to start the season.Casilla appears to have secured his spot as the starting second baseman for 2012. He was arbitration-eligible prior to this season, but he signed a one-year contract with the Twins in mid-February to avoid arbitration. He'll earn 1.38 million this season.Casilla spent the early part of 2011 as the Twins' starting shortstop, but he moved over to second base not long after Nishioka broke his leg in the first week of the season. Casilla is versatile enough to play either middle infield position, but he'll likely lock down a role as Minnesota's every-day second baseman in 2012. The Twins signed veteran infielder Jamey Carroll in the offseason, and they see him as a shortstop although he has played 300 more games at second base than shortstop during his 10-year career.Casilla's 2011 season was cut short by a hamstring injury, but he's been healthy so far this spring. Through Tuesday, Casilla is batting .345 (10-for-29) with a double in 11 Grapefruit League games. It remains to be seen where Casilla will bat in the Twins' lineup, but it'll likely be eighth or ninth. He batted second in 62 games in 2011, but it appears Carroll will assume that spot in the lineup.The 27-year-old Casilla played 54 games atsecond base and 36 at shortstop last season, but he said he feels comfortable at either position."I know what to do," Casilla said earlier this month. "I've played a lot of shortstop. I know what to do there. I'm ready. I like second base, but I like shortstop, too."PROJECTED BACKUPS Luke Hughes, .223 BA, 7 HRs, 30 RBIs in 2011 (96 games); Jamey Carroll, .290 BA, 17 RBIs, 10 SB, 52 runs in 2011 (with Dodgers); Brian Dozier, .318 BA, 7 homers, 34 RBIs in 78 games at Double-AThe Twins recently optioned Nishioka to Triple-A Rochester, meaning the backup second baseutility infielder job is up for grabs. Luke Hughes, a versatile infielder, spent 35 games at second base last season, the most at any position he played in 96 games. He's a candidate to earn a spot on the 25-man roster as a utility infielder, and would be a backup second baseman and first baseman. With Nishioka's demotion and an impressive spring from 24-year-old Brian Dozier there's a chance that Dozier could make the big league club as the starting shortstop, meaning Carroll would slide into that utility role, splitting time between shortstop and second base. Throughout his career, Carroll has spent 507 games at second and 207 at shortstop.If Dozier does indeed make the team, he'll likely play mostly shortstop. But he's spent time at second base during his three-year minor league career, including 28 combined games at second between Class-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain in 2011, and could fill in there if needed.OTHER AL CENTRAL STARTERS Gordon Beckham (White Sox); Johnny Giavotella (Royals); Jason Kipnis (Indians); Ryan Raburn (Tigers).Giovatella is one of the Royals' young players to watch and made his major league debut last season, batting .247 with 21 homers in 46 games. Like Giavotella, Kipnis made his big league debut in 2011. In 36 games with Cleveland, Kipnis batted .272 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. It should be interesting to see what both of those young second basemen do in their first full seasons. Beckham, meanwhile, continues to regress offensively since his rookie season in 2009, when he hit .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games.Raburn, a six-year veteran, has played six different positions for the Tigers during his time in Detroit. He's spent 199 games in left field and 110 at second base. Last season, however, Raburn played more at second base (56 games) than he did in left field (43 games). It could be a platoon at second for the Tigers, however, with Brandon Inge possibly getting some time there.Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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