Casilla hopes to supply O's with more than good 'D'
Speedy veteran infielder is coming off a strong stint in winter ball
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Coming off a solid Dominican Winter League season, Alexi Casilla is hoping he can bring more to the Orioles' organization than just a good glove.
"I know I can hit," said Casilla, who posted a .289/.349./.428 slash line in 37 games for the Gigantes and said he 'found himself' this winter. "In the Twins' organization, they didn't let me do what I know I have to do.
"They were always changing things. When you play like that, it's kind of hard sometimes, you know. I know what I'm doing wrong by myself. Sometimes when something is not giving you good results, you know from there what you are doing wrong."
Casilla, acquired in a waiver claim on Nov. 2, said he played winter ball to get back on track at the plate, coming off a Major League season in which he hit .241 with a .282 on-base percentage in 106 games. He comes to Baltimore primarily as Brian Roberts' backup -- should Roberts stay healthy -- although manager Buck Showalter will rotate Casilla around the infield this spring.
"I want to see him at shortstop," Showalter said on Saturday. "Different guys are going to move around. We did it last year, and we'll do it again. The only way to find out is to play them."
The 28-year-old Casilla has played shortstop, second and third base over a seven-year big league career, all with the Twins. Despite an unspectacular .975 career fielding percentage, he has been lauded for having exceptional range. Casilla also has impressive speed, successfully stealing 71 bases in 80 attempts over his career for an 88.75 percent success rate. Last year, Casilla went 21-for-22 in stolen bases, and his presence gives Showalter another option for an Orioles club that ranked last in the Majors in steals (57) last season.
"We bring the potential to be more of a threat there, if we keep everybody healthy," said Showalter, who didn't rule out the possibility of having Casilla and Roberts in the same lineups a time or two during the season.
Asked if the Orioles will incorporate more of a speed element into their everyday game, Showalter said as long as it's done wisely.
"I want to keep stealing at a high percentage. I don't want to give outs away with reckless abandon," Showalter said. "I mean, [you've] got to have a little of that. But I think it's a skill set we should try to take advantage of. I know [catcher Matt] Wieters has got a goal in mind."
Wieters isn't particularly fleet-flooted, but the addition of Casilla -- along with a healthy Roberts and a full year of outfielder Nate McLouth -- would go a long way toward helping the Orioles manufacture runs.
And while Casilla is looking forward to having a better offensive year, for now he's enjoying getting to know his new organization in camp.
"I feel good because this team went so far last year, and they were so exciting," said Casilla. "To be able to play here now and be part of that team, it's going to be a lot of fun."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.