Notes: Castro excited to start at short
Sierra's timetable for return is unknown
TORONTO -- All Juan Castro has ever wanted is the opportunity to be an everyday starter, so he can be forgiven for being a little excited to be the Twins' starting shortstop on Tuesday."There is something special about Opening Day and the excitement that you get," Castro said, smiling. "I'm just so glad to have the opportunity to be the starter." The decision to give Castro the nod at shortstop for the Twins caught many by surprise. The 33-year-old has never held an everyday job and has hoped to have the opportunity at least once in his career. Now is that chance. Question marks surrounding whether Castro can hold the role, though, are plenty. Offense has never been the shortstop's strong suit. A career .230 hitter, Castro has never been known for his efforts at the plate. He has been known to have health issues that have limited his time on the field. Neither of those things seems to be a concern to the player himself. "The last four years, I think I've gotten better offensively because I've gotten more opportunities to play more often," Castro said. "I may not be a strong hitter, but like last year, I did a lot of little things like hit and runs, bunts. I'm the player that plays for the team and I prepare to do the little things to help move the guys over." For now, casting a good first impression is the main goal for Castro. "Last year I was there for a lot of games, but this year I am looking for the same, maybe better," Castro said. "If you're there, you just have to do your job. I want to let them know I can still play at this level -- even on an everyday basis." Earning the job was a big achievement, but Castro has even higher ambitions. A Gold Glove would be the ultimate reward for the defensive-minded Castro if he can stick around long enough to play the entire season. Having a partner like Luis Castillo at second could help in that effort. Even if it doesn't equate to earning the coveted Gold Glove, Castro is sure that it will equal one thing. "Lots of double plays," Castro said with a big grin. Sierra update: The Opening Day roster was set for the Twins, but just how long it will remain as is depends a lot on one man -- Ruben Sierra. Sierra, 40, was supposed to be the team's left-handed hitter off the bench but due to a strained right quad, he still remains down in extended Spring Training. Once he is healthy, a spot will not only have to be made on the 25-man roster but also one on the 40-man, as well. But exactly when that move will have to take place is uncertain. The timetable for Sierra's return is still a bit suspect as the Twins want him to not only see more game action but to play a bit in the outfield. Sierra has already been a designated hitter in a few Minor League games and is expected to do that again soon.
"Once he starts playing the outfield and proves to us that he can run the bases and play the outfield a few days in a row, then we'll see where he's at," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.Twins general manager Terry Ryan also talked with Sierra's agent to assure him that the club does indeed plan on bringing the player up once they are convinced he is healthy enough to play. Sierra signed with the Twins on a Minor League deal.
Central foes:In the Twins clubhouse just hours before their season opener, it was another game that took center stage.The big screen TV in the middle of the visitors' clubhouse was tuned to the White Sox-Indians game, and there was a noticeable amount of attention paid to how the two clubs were doing. The strong competition in the American League Central has been much talked about, but before the Twins even began play, one of the clubs took a major blow. The Indians got the bad news on Tuesday that pitcher C.C. Sabathia will likely miss three to five weeks due to a strained right oblique muscle. Though it may not change the entire complexity of the race, Rondell White knows that it could be a big bonus for Minnesota. The team has to face the Tribe this weekend in Cleveland and was expected to see Sabathia in Saturday's game. "You hate to wish anything bad on him, I know him pretty good, but he's a tough pitcher to face," White said. "You want to be out there competing against him. But not having to face him, I'm not going to complain, either." As expected: Though Gardenhire hadn't revealed a specific lineup prior to Opening Day, the one that the Twins unveiled didn't carry any surprises. There had been questions earlier in the year as to who Gardenhire would choose for the leadoff spot -- Shannon Stewart or Luis Castillo. Both have been table setters in their careers, but it came down to weighing the options of who would fit best. "We looked at a lot of different things," Gardenhire said of the batting order. The end decision was to go with Stewart leading off. With catcher Joe Mauer then as his No. 3 hitter who rarely strikes out, Gardenhire feels confident that his offense will be more productive this season. "Hopefully it sets the table for our four, five, six guys who are supposed to drive in runs," Gardenhire said of the lineup. "Maybe even seven, too, and eight. If we can get on base, it looks like we have guys that can drive in runs." Twins tidbits: The Blue Man Group performed both National Anthems prior to the game. ... With the stadium still dark following the introductions, a video highlight reel played to honor the memory of Kirby Puckett and was greeted by the crowd with a huge ovation. ... The Twins' 2006 Opening Day roster ranks as the second youngest in all of baseball with an average age of 28.46. The Marlins are the youngest, with 26.36. Coming up: Brad Radke will take the mound at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night in a 6:07 p.m. CT contest against right-hander Josh Towers and the Blue Jays.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.