Sid Hartman: Twins would like Cirillo to play more

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 1, 2007 - 9:54 PM

Jeff Cirillo has played in fewer than half the Twins' games this season, but manager Ron Gardenhire wants to the veteran infielder to get healthy.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he believes the club might have found the righthanded hitter it needs to win another division championship in infielder Jeff Cirillo, who has lifted his average to .272 after a slow start.

The big problem is that Cirillo, who hit .319 in 112 games for Milwaukee last season, has been having trouble with both his knees and hasn't been available on a regular basis.

The 37-year-old Cirillo, a .297 hitter over his 14 major league seasons, has played in only 35 of 80 games this season, sitting out Sunday night's tough 1-0 loss to Detroit.

Playing first base Saturday, Cirillo went 2-for-3, although he committed his second error in as many games at the position. Justin Morneau was back at first Sunday.

"We need him to get his legs underneath him, and we're trying to give him as many days off as we can to get healthy and we need him out there," Gardenhire said of Cirillo. "He's a professional hitter, he handles lefties and righties, and he has good at-bats and that's what we need, quality at-bats. So, that's what we're looking for. We need him just to go play. I'd like to get him where he can say he can go play and end it there.

"We're down to not many guys off the bench now, sending Chris Heintz down for right now, and that makes it more important for these guys to be healthy off the bench."

If Cirillo gets healthy, the Twins perhaps could afford to send backup infielder Luis Rodriguez, who is batting .169, to Class AAA Rochester and bring up power hitter Garrett Jones. However, with Cirillo's health questionable, they have to keep Rodriguez around.

One guy who has come around is shortstop Jason Bartlett, whose career-best hitting 11-game hitting streak ended Sunday night. According to Gardenhire, Bartlett has his confidence back and is playing like he did last year, when he hit .309 playing every day after getting called up from the minors in June.

Gardenhire likes the attitude of this year's team.

"This club has the same heart that that club had last year, and that's important," he said. "Now, we've just got to get some guys all clicking at the same time."

Despite Sunday's loss, taking two of three games in Detroit was a good start to the Twins' 10-day, 11-game road trip that could make or break them.

Likes Kalus

Andrew Alberts, a former Benilde-St. Margaret's and Boston College hockey player now with the Boston Bruins, reports that Petr Kalus, the 20-year-old Czech Republic native the Wild acquired from the Bruins in the trade for goalie Manny Fernandez, scored on his first three shots on goal when he came up from the minors to the NHL for a short period late in the season.

"He played good, he's a skilled forward, he's got a nose for the net, a good shot, plays an upbeat, physical game," Alberts said. "He's not afraid to hit guys, and I think he got in a few fights when he was in the minors."

Tim Thomas played 66 games in goal for Boston last season, going 30-29-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average.

"Timmy's a good goaltender, so I'm sure they'll be competing for time," Alberts said.

About Bruins teammate Phil Kessel, the former Gophers forward who missed 11 games after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, Alberts said: "You know he started off slow, which is expected being a young kid, an 18-year-old in the National Hockey League, but towards the end of the year, I think he was one of our better forwards. ... He's got great skill and great speed, and he started to find the net a lot more at the end of the year."

As for Alberts, who turned 26 Saturday, the defenseman spent the entire 2006-07 season with the Bruins, had what he called "an OK year" (no goals and 10 assists in 76 games with 124 penalty minutes) and has signed a two-year contract with the team.

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