OAKLAND -- Alexi Casilla's emergence in the two hole back in mid-May has been credited as a big reason for the Twins' success this season. But since returning from the disabled list at the start of this road trip, Casilla has been experiencing his share of offensive struggles. He's batting just .176 (6-for-34) with a .222 on-base percentage in the eight games. So on Friday, manager Ron Gardenhire shifted his second baseman to the No. 8 hole and moved Nick Punto up into the second spot in the order.
"I don't know if his thumb is bothering him, but he's chasing a lot of pitches right now," Gardenhire said of Casilla, who missed 20 games after tearing a ligament in his right thumb. "He says it's fine and everything like that but he's been chasing a lot. He's swinging a little crazy at times, right-handed especially." While Casilla has been suffering through woes, Punto is hitting .387 (12-for-31) with a .424 on-base percentage during the road trip. Gardenhire said that with the team's recent struggles scoring runs, he wanted to put Punto near the top of the order to possibly generate more offense. Gardenhire made it clear that this flip-flop wouldn't be a permanent move, only lasting until Casilla gets himself righted offensively. "We'll see if we can get Lexi going," Gardenhire said. "I like him a lot in the second hole and I'd like to eventually see him get back there, but he's swinging a little nuts right now." The fact that Casilla is coming off the injury and the amount of time he missed could be a factor in his struggles. Gardenhire just hopes that by changing things up, it will help to get Casilla back on track. "He started off pretty decent, but then, it's not easy to just jump back in there after a dramatic injury like that to his thumb," Gardenhire said. "We'll give him a little break from the top and go from there."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.