See more of the story

Willi Castro has a daily pregame routine.

After warming up, he takes ground balls at second base, working on his double-play pivot. Unless he's at third base, locking in on those long throws across the diamond. Or if he's in the outfield that day, in which case he works on spotting the ball on the run, or coming in quickly on bloopers.

Anyway, then Castro takes part in the Twins' hitters' meetings, preparing for that day's opposing pitcher, then gets into the cage to take some left-handed swings, where he'd like to increase his power. Unless he's hitting right-handed, which means he's trying to pull the ball a little more in order to take advantage of an often-shifted defense.

OK, Willi Castro doesn't have a daily pregame routine. He's got a daily pregame fire drill.

"It's a lot. You've got to work in the infield, in the outfield, every position, to stay ready for anything. And I try to take the same amount of swings as everyone else, then take them from the other side, too," Castro, the switch-hitting utility man, said. "I love it. It's a rhythm, and I'm used to it. I've been doing that my whole life, I think."

You might think a workload like that would require frequent days off. But it's just the opposite, Castro said.

"The more I play, the better I play. This rhythm that I'm in, it's because I'm in there every day, staying focused," Castro said. "I feel really good. That's my No. 1 goal, to stay healthy, and if I have that, I want to play. Every day."

Mission accomplished. Castro has been in the starting lineup for 73 of the Twins' 78 games, and he's subbed in — at four different positions — in the other five. With the season's midway point approaching on Thursday, Castro already has appeared in more first-half games than any player under Rocco Baldelli's leadership, and at one point played every inning of 59 consecutive games.

And it's where he's played that's so remarkable: Castro has 15 games or more at five different positions this year, filling in at various times for Royce Lewis, Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. Heck, he's even retired all four hitters he faced from the pitcher's mound.

All of this amid the best offensive season of Castro's six-year career. He leads the Twins in doubles (20), walks (26) and steals (8), and owns a .799 OPS.

"If you think about it, he's the real MVP of this team," shortstop Carlos Correa said. "He plays everywhere. If somebody gets hurt, he replaces them with no problem. When you have a guy like that, he makes you so much better as a team. We should appreciate him way more than we do."

His manager appreciates the 27-year-old in the best way possible: By putting his name in the lineup.

"He's integral to everything going on here. He's earned every opportunity that he's gotten," said Baldelli, who was just hoping for raw talent and good character when the Twins signed Castro away from the Tigers 18 months ago. "That's all you're really hoping for, and then, in the 99.9th percentile, something like this happens. He wakes up, comes to the ballpark ready to get better. And that's why he keeps getting better."

Baldelli has seen it before — he was a Tampa Bay teammate with Ben Zobrist in 2008, and watched the super-utility man blossom into one of the best players in the game.

"Ben went from a player who didn't play every day and played multiple positions, to leading the league in WAR" with an 8.6 in 2009, Baldelli said. "So that's pretty good, to say the least. Willi's doing that for us."

So can he play all 162 games, a feat only accomplished four times by a Twin?

"It would take a very special, unique player to do that, someone who has the mindset that they are never out of the lineup. … The harder you play, the more intensity you play with, the more explosive you are out there, the harder it is. That's a fact," Baldelli said. "It's hard to play 150 games, you know? 162 is really something. It's almost impossible. I didn't say impossible — almost impossible."

Baldelli looked up from his desk and spotted broadcaster (and former AL MVP) Justin Morneau.

"Mornie, did you ever play 162?" Baldelli asked.

"I played 163," Morneau replied with a smile. In 2008, the Twins' regular season included a one-game playoff.

Cesar Tovar holds the team record, playing 164 games (two ties) in 1967.

Most games played by a Twin, single season

164* — Cesar Tovar, 1967

163* — Harmon Killebrew, 1967

163 ** — Justin Morneau, 2008

162 — Gary Gaetti, 1984

162 — Roy Smalley Jr., 1979

162 — Harmon Killebrew, 1969

162 — Harmon Killebrew, 1966

* — Season included two ties

** — Season included one-game playoff