This is the third in a five-part series previewing the Minnesota Twins by position heading into spring training, which starts Tuesday with pitchers and catchers reporting.
Friday: Starting pitchers Saturday: Relief pitchers Today: Catchers Monday: Infielders Tuesday: Outfielders ON THE ROSTER (alphabetical order): Drew Butera (.198, 1 HR, 5 RBI), Ryan Doumit (.275, 18 HR, 75 RBI), Chris Herrmann (.056, 0 HR, 1 RBI), Joe Mauer (.319, 10 HR, 85 RBI), Josmil Pinto (.295, 14 HR, 60 RBI in the minor leagues)
OFFSEASON CHANGES: The Twins were pretty set at the catcher position heading into 2013, so there were no acquisitions made this offseason. The only change made was in late November when Pinto was added to the 40-man major league roster. He had previously spent seven seasons in the Twins’ minor league system and advanced to Double-A New Britain last year but spent most of 2012 at High-A Fort Myers. General manager Terry Ryan noted this winter that he’ll keep an eye on Pinto during the spring.
Mauer dealt with injuries in 2011, but bounced back to have a healthy and productive 2012 season, which alleviated any worries the Twins might have had about their catching situation. Doumit also proved to be durable and versatile last year, and Butera was an option as a third catcher.
STARTER SPOTLIGHT: Mauer played in just 82 games and batted an uncharacteristically low .287 in 2011 as he endured numerous injuries, including bilateral leg weakness early in the year and pneumonia at the end of the season. So he entered the 2012 season with some people questioning his health.
Mauer responded by playing in a career-high 147 games and finished fourth in the American League batting race by hitting .319. His 10 home runs and 85 RBI were the most since his MVP season in 2009. Part of what kept Mauer healthy was moving him from catcher to first base for 30 games, done in part to give first baseman Justin Morneau a break as he, too, dealt with injuries. Mauer ended up catching 74 games and also had 42 games as designated hitter. Mauer has said this winter that he hopes to catch more in 2013 than he did a year ago.
Doumit proved to be a valuable addition prior to the 2012 season. In his first season with the Twins, he finished fourth in home runs and RBI with 18 and 75, respectively. The long-time Pittsburgh Pirate caught 57 games for Minnesota while also playing 22 games in the outfield and 48 as designated hitter. Doumit signed a two-year contract extension in June and is inked through the 2014 season.
Butera appeared in just 42 games (32 starts) for the Twins last season, a career low since making his major league debut in 2010. He doesn’t bring as much to the plate as Mauer or Doumit, as is evident by his .198 average but he is a solid defensive catcher.
SPRING TRAINING QUESTION: How many catchers will the Twins take north? Mauer and Doumit will no doubt be on the 25-man roster to start the season. But the question will be whether Minnesota will opt to carry three catchers on the roster, which they’ve done at times over the last few years. But having a third catcher on the roster served as insurance for Mauer when his health status was uncertain. He proved he was healthy last year and has said he wants to catch more games than he did in 2012, so a third catcher besides he and Doumit may not be necessary.
CATCHER JOE MAUER SAYS: “I think I’ll probably do more catching. A lot of the reason I went over to first base, especially early in the season, is we really didn’t know what (Justin) Morneau’s situation was. That’s the way I’ve been preparing for the season, to be the everyday catcher. I can go over to first if they need me to do that. I can DH if they need me to do that too. The way I’ve been preparing is catching every day.”