Twins Catching and BenchPublished 4:18pm Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Spring Training has been underway for awhile now and although some of the positions have been pretty much settle there are still a few open spots. One could be a backup catcher and then there is the bench.
Let’s start with the catching. Joe Mauer will be the starting catcher there is no doubt about that. He has come to camp healthy and is determined to make up for last season when injuries kept him out of the lineup most of the summer. He was also criticized by a lot of people including some teammates for maybe not doing enough to try and play. It was the first harsh treatment he maybe has received in his whole career including little league on up. You heard it here first, or maybe second, anyway, Mauer is going to have a good season. Now will he hit a lot of home runs like he did that one year? No…but he doesn’t have too. If he hits .320 or better and hits 10 home runs and drives in over 75 runs that would be just fine because it would mean he was in the lineup all year. So the starting spot is his.
Mauer may play some at 1st base and then some at DH and if he does his backup will be the newly acquired Ryan Doumit. He may not be a gold glove fielding catcher but he is good enough and the boy can hit and it doesn’t hurt that he is a switch hitter. He will be the primary DH and like I said fill in for Mauer when he needs a rest. Doumit will hit .280 or better and maybe smack out 10-15 home runs and if he sees regular time in the lineup will drive in close to 70 runs, at least that is my prediction. He is a far better backup at catcher than the guys they ran out there last year.
The only question at catcher is if Gardy decides he wants to carry three of them. With both Mauer and Doumit scheduled to be in the lineup together most of the time Gardy may feel the need to carry another one in case of an injury during a game. If he does want to carry another catcher more than likely it will be Drew Butera. The only thing about this guy is that he can’t hit his weight and I mean the weight he was in junior high. Most of you readers out there could out hit Butera but he is thought to be the good “catch and throw” guy Gardy likes. He does have some competition though this year, and I don’t mean Rene Rivera who couldn’t hit either. It is from J. R. Towles picked up over the winter from the Houston Astros. Towles hasn’t hit a whole lot better than Butera in his stints in the Major Leagues but has shown he can hit in the Minor Leagues with Butera did not. Whether the Twins should carry three catchers will now be talked about when I look at the bench.
The Twins usually carry 13 pitchers so that leaves 12 position players for the team. That leaves 4 bench players including Doumit the DH. One of the spots will go to Trevor Plouffe who they are converting to an outfield spot. He may platoon out there with Revere or maybe he wins the spot, whatever, he has made the team. Buy the way he could also play shortstop or third base if needed. If he recovers from a shoulder injury, which I think he has been doing, one spot would go to Luke Hughes. Hughes doesn’t have any options left so sending him down would mean he more than likely would get picked up by another team. Hughes has some pop in his bat and can play 1st, 2nd, or 3rd so he would be the utility guy and some, like myself, wouldn’t mind if he won the starting 2nd base job.
If the Twins decide to carry three catchers the next spot would go to that guy leaving only one spot left. Through the winter the talk has been to make Tsuyoshi Nishioka the utility guy but I am not sure he is the guy and I’m not sure the Twins think he is the guy. I haven’t given up on the kid yet, but he needs to play in the Minor Leagues for awhile just to get his confidence up. At this moment I don’t think he can help the Twins so they should not save a spot for him. So who gets that spot? Spring Training may tell us but for now I would like that to be Sean Burroughs. He is a veteran who can play third and I understand he is trying 1st and 2nd base this spring. He is a good defensive third baseman and could inspire Valencia to play better along with having that veteran left-handed bat on the bench. He would be far more useful than Nishioka.
About carrying three catchers, I do not think that is necessary. Over the last how many years with the DH there may have been a handful of times the Twins lost the DH to an injury. Triple A catchers are a phone call and a quick flight away if someone gets injured. I personally would not waste the spot on a third catcher. I would rather carry that extra good defensive outfielder than a third catcher. Who that guy would be remains to be seen but I think Darin Mastroinni may be the guy. He is fast so he could pinch run and I is supposed to be a good defensive outfielder at all three places and he has had Major League expericance. He is also not considered a prospect yet like Joe Benson or Rene Tosoni so he doesn’t need to play every day.
So my opinion as of this day in writing, the Twins catchers should be Mauer and Doumit. The bench should be Plouffe, Hughes, Burroughs, and Mastroinni. Let’s see how close I am on this one.