Castillo leaving his WBC options open

— Twins second baseman Luis Castillo won’t play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic later this month.

Or will he?

Castillo said Wednesday morning that he was out of the international tournament, but then left the window open just a crack in the afternoon, saying he first wanted to discuss his options with Dominican team management before reaching a final decision.

“I wanted to represent my country, but I want to be 100 percent,” Castillo said Wednesday morning. “I want to be 100 percent. That’s why I’m going to stay here and keep working out so I’m going to be ready for the season.”

Leg injuries slowed Castillo last season, when he hit .301 with 10 stolen bases for the Florida Marlins.

The three-time NL All-Star said Wednesday morning that he wants to focus on being healthy for the 2006 season, the final year of his contract.

“I feel better, but I have to keep going and doing the same thing I’ve been doing every day,” Castillo said. “I don’t want to have any problems during the season. I have to have a good year this year.”

With the exception of Australian infielder Glenn Williams, who will leave camp March¤5, the Twins’ World Baseball Classic players will depart today, manager Ron Gardenhire said.

LIRIANO IN ACTION: Francisco Liriano, the Twins’ top prospect and a candidate for a spot in the starting rotation, threw two scoreless innings in Minnesota’s 2-0, 6-inning scrimmage win over Concordia (Minn.) University on Wednesday.

Liriano, who will be leaving camp to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, walked two batters, but was able to coax a pair of groundball double plays.

Gardenhire said he expects the 22-year-old’s control to improve as he gets more time on the mound.

“The quality of the pitches is there,” Gardenhire said. “Now it’s about mechanics and not rushing him.”

The left-hander struck out 92 hitters in 76Ò innings at Double-A New Britain before being promoted to Triple-A Rochester. His 9-2 record and 1.78 ERA in the International League led to a September call-up to the big leagues.

Chris Heintz, who caught Liriano last season at Rochester and was behind the plate Wednesday, said he saw the full mix of pitches that propelled Liriano to his status as an elite prospect.

“You could tell it was his first time out in a game situation,” Heintz said. “But all his stuff looked good. He threw some really nice changeups, and he was able to put people away with his slider, like he normally does.”

PING A DIFFERENT TUNE: The Concordia hitters used aluminum bats in Wednesday’s scrimmage, but that didn’t concern Gardenhire.

“Not with the pitchers I was throwing against them,” Gardenhire said.

Twins pitchers struck out 13 of the 21 Concordia hitters, including eight of the final 10.

TWIN BILLS: Right-handed reliever Juan Rincon, who is recovering from October elbow surgery, threw off a mound for about 20 minutes on Wednesday. ... Johan Santana and Carlos Silva, teammates for Venezuela in the WBC, are scheduled to pitch against the Red Sox in tonight’s Grapefruit League opener for both teams.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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