Casilla winning over Nathan

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 6, 2007 - 10:13 PM

One week after the Twins traded Luis Castillo to the Mets, the anger in Minnesota's clubhouse seems to be softening.

One week after the Twins traded Luis Castillo to the Mets, the anger in Minnesota's clubhouse seems to be softening.

Since getting promoted to replace Castillo at second base, Alexi Casilla is batting .250 (5-for-20) with three RBI, and the team is 4-3 since the trade.

Twins closer Joe Nathan, one of the move's outspoken critics, offered a telling remark Sunday after Casilla's run-scoring double gave the Twins a 1-0 victory.

Asked if the experience of the Twins' nucleus could help in the pennant race, Nathan said: "Experience is great ... but it's one of those things where it's fun to watch those guys come up and the energy they bring. They kind of help us out late in the season. I don't want to call us old, but we're older. They give us a little [lift]."

Piazza available

Oakland designated hitter Mike Piazza has cleared waivers, according to ESPN.com, which means the Twins and every other team did not make a claim.

Piazza, 38, is still owed $2.6 million, and his passage through waivers proved no team wanted to spend that much on him. Oakland might have to eat some salary, but since he cleared waivers, the A's can now trade him anywhere. The Twins saved $2.5 million on their payroll when they traded Castillo and let Jeff Cirillo land in Arizona through waivers.

However, inside the Twins clubhouse, players remain skeptical. Piazza has a gentleman's agreement with GM Billy Beane that will keep Oakland from trading him against his will, and Twins insiders keep hearing Piazza doesn't want to play in Minnesota.

Measuring Carmona

One day after the Twins squeaked out a 1-0 victory over Cleveland pitcher Fausto Carmona, Michael Cuddyer didn't even hesitate when asked if Carmona has the nastiest stuff in baseball.

"Yes, and nobody's even a close second," Cuddyer said. "Ask a lefty, he might tell you something different. But for a righthanded hitter, nobody is nastier than him."

Why?

"The movement on his sinker that's between 93 and 96 [miles per hour]," Cuddyer said. "His slider's good. His changeup/split finger or whatever he throws is nasty. Everything looks like it's going to be at your belt, and it ends up in the dirt."

Carmona, 23, is 13-6 with a 3.17 ERA. Against the Twins, he is 2-1 with a 1.14 ERA.

White not forgotten

Rondell White hasn't started a game since July 30, but Gardenhire said he's been trying to get White healthy enough to play the outfield.

"He was fighting it in Cleveland [in late July]," Gardenhire said. "It was hurting him. What's the sense? His legs are killing him, and they're not going to get any better."

The recent rest hasn't healed White completely, but at least he hasn't made things worse on the Metrodome's artificial surface. If White could return to left field, he'd be thrilled. He's had better success at the plate when he's playing left field than when he's the designated hitter, but he's not picky.

"At this point, I just want to help out any way I can," he said. "If he needs me to pinch hit, even just to make the other team bring in a lefthander, I'll do it. Whatever he says, I'll do. It'd be nice to make the playoffs again. Last year was the best feeling I've had since I started playing baseball."

Etc.

• Nick Punto, who was 5-for-21 in his career against Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, started at shortstop. Jason Bartlett, who is 1-for-15 against Byrd, got a rest.

• Jesse Crain, who had shoulder surgery in late May, has had no setbacks and said he's still targeting an Opening Day return.

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