MINNEAPOLIS - The Orioles aren’t afraid to experiment.
They will lower a pitcher’s arm slot or turn him into a knuckleballer. They will turn a Double-A shortstop into a major league third baseman. And they will talk a switch-hitter into batting exclusively from one side of the plate.
Second baseman Alexi Casilla said he will bat from the left side tonight against Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey, but he’s been taking batting practice from the right side against right-handers at the suggestion of the Orioles, and he may give up switch-hitting in the near future.
The Orioles believe he can drive the ball more effectively as a right-handed hitter.
Casilla, 28, is a natural right-handed hitter, and he’s been batting from both sides since he was 16. It’s going to be an adjustment, one that he’s willing to make if it gets him in the lineup more frequently.
“I don’t know if you guys (reporters) heard about it, but maybe I’ll stay from the right side, hitting against righties, too,” he said. “I’ve been working in the cage and in the field with a machine, working with the sliders, because they think I can hit better from my right side and I stay on top of the ball better. I don’t know. I’ll bring it into a game when I get ready to play against righties, and I’ll see how I feel. But tonight, I think I’m going to hit from the left side.”
Casilla is 1-for-9 against right-handers this season and 6-for-26 vs. left-handers. He’s a career .246/.307/.339 hitter from the left side and .258/.297/.322 from the right side.
Casilla is 0-for-5 in two major league games batting from the right side against right-handers.
“In the past years, they say I hit too many fly balls from my left side, fly outs,” Casilla said. “They see I stay on top of the ball better from my right side, so they came up with the idea, ‘What if you hit only from your right side?’ I said, ‘I can try.’
“I’ve been working on hitting against a machine, a couple sliders, because as soon as I start hitting from my right side, that’s what they’re going to throw because it’s something new for me. But this is baseball. I’ve been around enough and I think I can do it because, in BP, we’ve got a righty throwing. The only thing is going to be the slider, but I’ll be ready for it. I’m working on it.”
Before this season, giving up switch-hitting “never passed through my mind,” Casilla said. “It surprised me when they told me. I said, ‘Oh, OK. I’m going to try it.’”
Ryan Flaherty has been getting most of the starts at second base against right-handers this season, but he’s batting .122 in 26 games. Casilla is making his first start tonight since May 3.
“I haven’t been playing, but I’m working mentally and working hard in the cage and I’ve been ready to play anytime they need me,” Casilla said.
“I haven’t hit for maybe two weeks from the other (left) side, but I’ve been working in the cage.”
Casilla spent parts of seven seasons with the Twins before the Orioles claimed him off waivers on Nov. 2. He had trouble finding the visiting clubhouse at Target Field this afternoon.
“To go to the home clubhouse, you’ve got to go through the loading dock,” he said. “You drive, you park there and then you walk to the clubhouse. It’s pretty close. But walking from the hotel, it’s pretty far.
“I have a lot of good memories here. And being in the lineup is exciting because I’m going to play against my old team.”