Notes: Cirillo a welcome sight for Twins
Injury-depleted bench receives lift with veteran's return
ST. PETERSBURG -- Many of the Twins smiled at a familiar sight during early batting practice Tuesday.
Jeff Cirillo was finally off the disabled list and taking hacks in the batting cage. Better yet, the veteran utility infielder reported no ill effects afterward.
"I feel good," Cirillo said. "I'm ready. From a psychological standpoint, I'm glad that I got to go in there and see some live pitching before I got back up here."
Cirillo had been out since April 2 with a recurring knee injury, which later required arthroscopic surgery. He rehabbed with Class A Fort Myers, then joined the Twins at their hotel in St. Petersburg before Tuesday's series opener against the Devil Rays. He was not in the starting lineup Tuesday, but manager Ron Gardenhire said the 37-year-old Cirillo would be in Wednesday's lineup.
Cirillo's return was a big relief to a team that had been thin on the bench.
"Cirillo has a history with the guy pitching tomorrow [right-hander Jae Seo], so he'll DH," Gardenhire said. "If something happens [Tuesday], I have a guy with this caliber off of the bench. It's just whatever happens, he's ready to go."
Cirillo will play without a brace, but instead with supportive tape, which he said works like a "big, metal band-aid."
To make room on the 25-man roster, the Twins optioned infielder Alexi Casilla to Triple-A Rochester.
The original plan was for Casilla to remain at Rochester and gain more experience before the Twins' second baseman of the future was promoted to the big-league club. But as injuries continued to eat away the roster, Minnesota was left with little choice but to promote Casilla.
Gardenhire was impressed with Casilla in his time with the team. In 14 games, Casilla batted .233 (10-for-43) and was tied for the team lead with four stolen bases.
"I hope that he continues to play aggressive like that, because he's a fun player to watch," Gardenhire said. "He's a very exciting player, and we don't want to take that away from him. [We want him to] play with that same enthusiasm, just harness it in certain situations."
Also returning: Leadoff hitter Luis Castillo returned to the lineup Tuesday.
Prior to suffering a left quadriceps injury on April 19, the 31-year-old second baseman hit .296 [8-for-27] when leading off, with a double and two walks. Overall, Castillo is hitting .273 with two doubles, four walks and two stolen bases. He also had not committed an error in 68 total chances entering Tuesday.
"He's your jump-starter," Gardenhire said of Castillo. "He just has a knack for getting things going. ... When he's on the field, we're a lot more confident about the position and everything else. The leadoff spot is not something you worry about."
Twins tidbits: Minnesota has won five of its last six games at Tropicana Field, and 16 of 19 against Tampa Bay, dating back to 2004. ... The Twins had a team-record 61 doubles in April, breaking the old mark set in 2004 by one. The Twins entered Tuesday having collected at least one double in 20 straight games. ... Minnesota starters had a 3.98 ERA and .259 batting average against in April, compared to a 6.28 ERA and .322 batting average against in April 2006.
Down on the farm: Pinch-hitter Matthew LeCroy slugged a two-out double in the ninth inning to put Triple-A Rochester ahead for good during a 4-3 win over Toledo on Monday. Teammate Jose Morales batted .647 over five games last week, raising his season average from .276 to .413.
Coming up: The Twins return to Tropicana Field for the second game of a three-game series against the Rays at 6:10 p.m. CT Wednesday. Minnesota will send St. Petersburg native Boof Bonser (0-1, 5.26 ERA) to the mound, and Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander Jae Seo (1-2, 9.51).
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.