Posted at 2:27 PM on April 26, 2007
by David Zingler
It’s about 5:40 pm on Wednesday night; I am in the Twins clubhouse patiently waiting for Jeff Cirillo to finish his snack of baby carrots, broccoli and some sort of dip. When the veteran infielder finishes, I approach him at his locker in the far corner of the clubhouse near the big screen TV. Luis Castillo and Jason Tyner are nearby watching video of Odalis Perez, tonight’s starter for the visiting Royals.
ME: First off – you’re probably tired of answering this – how do you feel right now?
CIRILLO: I feel good, real good. It’s been two weeks and I feel like I am almost there to tell you the truth. Obviously the speed of the game is faster out there – sudden movements, body control – that’s probably my only fear. I’ve been taking grounders and feel fine…I am probably running about 50, 60% right now.
ME: Having just joined a new team, is it hard to find your identity – feel like you are part of the team – when you are not playing?
CIRILLO: No, I think it is important for me to be here and I show up to all of the games sit down on the bench and root for the guys. Gardy does a really good job – other teams, when you are on the DL, you kind of feel left out of the games – Gardy keeps a watchful eye, asks you how things are going and really makes you feel part of it.
ME: You are the longest tenured player...
CIRILLO: I know.
ME:...to not reach the postseason – that’s kind of a mouthful – did that factor in your decision to sign with the Twins as a free agent?
CIRILLO: Yes and no. Obviously the Twins (are annual contenders and) provided me the best opportunity to play. I could play a little more extensively than some of the other teams (that were interested).
ME: Before you re-joined the Brewers, you had a couple of rough years. Were you ever wondering if you were going to get back to the big leagues?
CIRILLO: Yeah. There was a huge mechanical flaw that was prohibiting me from hitting. There’s been a story about it and I don’t like to talk about it too much. You can go back and read it, it’s on-line.
(Note: I have been unable to locate that story, if anyone out there can find it, please let me know.)
ME: Fair enough. Do you see yourself as an everyday player or are you more comfortable on the bench?
CIRILLO: Whatever the manager asks me to do, I will do. I am the employee and he’s the manager.
ME: Coming into this year, you had a .298 career average, is it important to you to end your career at .300?
CIRILLO: It is more important to me to make the playoffs at this point.
ME: You played on the Brewers during the 1990s when there was a greater rivalry with the Twins, has it changed? Do you have any thoughts on that?
CIRILLO: Whenever we played the Twins, either here or Milwaukee, there was definitely more of a buzz in the air...the last few years it was tough to beat them, so when you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em.
I conclude our chat with a handshake. We exchange pleasantries and I begin to walk away, but not before a tin of Copenhagen tumbles out of Cirillo’s pocket and onto the floor. Always a gentleman, I instinctively retrieve it for the 37-year-old.