Twins ready to usher in new era behind the plate
FEB 17, 2014 1:00p ET
Mauer, who suffered a concussion that sent him to the disabled list last season, agreed with the team that will pay him $184 million over eight seasons and through 2018 to switch positions. They agreed with the goal in mind of Mauer staying healthy and in the lineup more often.
The switch means when the Twins held their first official workouts for pitchers and catchers Monday at the Lee County Sports Complex that they did so without a catcher named Mauer for the first time since 2003.
Mauer does not have to report until the rest of the position players do Friday, with the first full-squad workout slated to begin Saturday morning.
"It'll be different," said Eric Fryer, one of four men who enter spring training trying to claim two roster spots at catcher. "It will be different for the fans. Joe was a once in a generation type of catcher. It's going to be different not seeing him behind the plate for sure."
Fryer, Chris Hermann, Josmil Pinto and offseason acquisition Kurt Suzuki enter this spring training as the four Twins catchers on the 40-man roster, with Suzuki already slated to be the No. 1 catcher.
"It's going to be a competition for the other guy, and each guy brings a little something different to the table," said Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony. "Pinto is the best offensive guy of all the others. Fryer is probably the best defensive guy of the others. He has experience calling games. And Hermann brings some versatility. He can play the outfield, and he can hit some. We have a lot of variety between the three guys."
Mauer, 30, has won three American League batting titles and the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award. He has a career .323 batting average over 10 years.
Suzuki, also 30, played for the Washington Nationals and Oakland A's last season and spent 2007-2012 with the A's, giving him extensive knowledge of American League hitters and pitchers. He has a career batting average of .253.
"I'm not going to try to be the guy who's going to come in and be how Joe Mauer was," Suzuki said. "I'm just going to come in and do my job and handle the pitchers and do what I do. I feel confident about that. I think it will all work out."
Suzuki said spending the previous two seasons playing for two different teams would help prepare him for a third different team in 2014.
"I think the transition for me will be a little bit simpler," Suzuki said. "Knowing the hitters in will make things a little bit easier. I think the transition will be a little bit easier. It's not easy coming to a new team, but having done it before will help."
Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey said he heard positive reviews on Suzuki's ability to work with pitchers.
"I heard he calls a good game out there and that he's a good receiver," Pelfrey said. "He's a veteran out there. He's been around. I think he'll be good for the team."
Fryer, 28, played six games in the big leagues last season for the Twins and played six games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012. He said he looked forward to seeking out Mauer for advice. Just because Mauer isn't going to play catcher doesn't mean he can't help those who can.
"He'll be a valuable asset to have," Fryer said, especially in terms of knowing how to handle his pitchers against different types of hitters. "He's faced a lot of hitters on the big-league level. He knows how to approach them."
Pinto, 24, hit .342 with four home runs in just 21 games.
Hermann, 26, played 57 games with the Twins last season. He hit .204 with four home runs.
"My main focus this year is to improve." Hermann said. "When I came up, I started off really well. I kind of let that get to my head a little bit. Whenever you are successful at something, you feel as if there's nothing that will ever stop that.
"Then pitchers start figuring out how you like to hit. I wasn't really mentally prepared for that. I kind of got myself into a rut. I went out there this offseason focusing on being more mentally prepared."
On Sunday, Fryer, Pinto and Hermann could be seen conversing with one another in the clubhouse. Their interactions indicated that this competition might be a friendly one.
"It sounds like Kurt's going to be the No. 1 for sure," Fryer said. "The backup spot is going to be very competitive. That's what everybody wants. We've got a great organization with great players throughout. I'm looking forward to having a good spring."