Both on and off the field, Twins catcher Chris Herrmann is a laid-back guy. That wasn’t necessarily the case, however, when he first got called up to the big leagues last year.
When Herrmann debuted with Minnesota in 2012 as a September call-up, he was trying too hard to make a good impression. He swinging for the fences when he didn’t need to and trying to impress the coaches. As a result, he had just one hit in 18 at-bats.
One year later, Herrmann’s approach is much more relaxed. His swing looks easy, as it did when he hit a grand slam in the 10th inning of the Twins’ 10-3 victory Tuesday against the Angels. He came up to the plate with the bases loaded, put a seemingly effortless swing on the ball and wound up with his first career grand slam — at any level.
Even his first big league home run he hit on June 2 wasn’t exactly intentional.
“I didn’t come up here trying to do things that I wasn’t doing,” Herrmann said of his first call-up this season. “I wasn’t trying to hit home runs or anything. Fortunately I hit my first home run and I didn’t even mean to do that. I just stayed in my game. I didn’t try to expand everything.
“I think that’s one thing I really learned, especially my first time up here last year. I was trying to do everything.”
Herrmann is no longer trying to do everything, but he is working hard to be able to do more things defensively. A catcher by trade, the 25-year-old Tomball, Texas native brings versatility to the Twins. Already in his first 10 games in the big leagues this year, he’s played both left and right field, along with catcher.
Earlier this year, Herrmann even worked with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire at third base with the hopes of perhaps adding another position to his repertoire.
“He’s done a really nice job for us up here,” Gardenhire said. “He plays the game, he studies the game a little bit and he can play multiple positions, so he’s done a real nice job for us.”
Herrmann is eager to continue to improve his game with the hopes of sticking around in the majors. He’ll play winter ball after the season in order to play year-round and possibly work more on his infield defense. Although still undecided on where exactly he’ll play this winter, Herrmann has had a few offers from teams in the Dominican Republic. He’s talked with Twins teammate Wilkin Ramirez — who has spent his winters playing in the Dominican in the past — about what to expect from the process.
By playing winter ball, the hope for Herrmann is that he not only improves his game but also shows the Twins’ front office and coaches that he’s dedicated to getting better.
“Anything it takes to get better at baseball and whatever it takes for me to get up here next year, maybe to even start the season here next year would be fantastic,” he said. “I just want to show everybody that I’m an everyday player. I can play whenever they want me to, wherever. That’s just my main goal, really.”
Aside from Tuesday’s grand slam — which was the first hit by the Twins this year — Herrmann has handled the bat well during his brief time in the majors this year. In 10 games, he’s hit 9-for-26 (.346) with two homers, eight RBI and a pair of walks. In 69 games with Triple-A Rochester this year, Herrmann batted .227 with 22 RBI and two home runs.
He was a last-minute starter on Tuesday when catcher Joe Mauer left the team to be with his wife, who went into labor and gave birth to their twin daughters Wednesday morning. Even under that pressure of starting on short notice, Herrmann handled himself well.
Herrmann is now hoping he’ll get more opportunities the rest of the season with the hope of proving he’s worthy of a roster spot in 2014. And if he does get sent back to Rochester this year, he knows how to handle the demotion now that he’s gone through it.
“Overall, that’s just kind of a learning experience, really,” Herrmann said. “Next time, if I do happen to get sent down, it’s just a learning experience for me. Just enjoy the time that I have up here and don’t take anything for granted. If I get moved back down, just work hard, play hard and hopefully I get another chance.”
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.