MINNEAPOLIS — Chris Herrmann’s major league debut was brief, but it was still a day to remember for the Minnesota Twins catcher.
Herrmann entered Sunday’s game against the Chicago White Sox as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth inning of the Twins’ 9-2 loss.
After replacing Ryan Doumit defensively, Herrmann got his first big league at-bat in the bottom of the eighth inning. He grounded a 1-1 pitch from Chicago reliever Donnie Veal to second base for the final out of the inning.
“It was awesome,” Herrmann said of his debut. “I was nervous a little bit. A lot of stuff was going through my head. It was so surreal to think about it. I finally got my chance, and I felt like I did pretty well. Hopefully I can carry that on to the next time I get to play.”
Herrmann spent the entire 2012 season with Double-A New Britain. He batted .276/.350/.392 in 127 games with the Rock Cats and hit 10 home runs while driving in 61 runs.
The Twins like the versatility that Herrmann provides. While he was predominantly used as a catcher this year in New Britain (83 games), he also spent some time in left field (27 games) and even played third base once.
Herrmann was called up to the majors on Friday as an insurance policy with two of the Twins’ three catchers ailing at the time. Joe Mauer was day-to-day with back spasms, while Ryan Doumit had an oblique injury. That left Drew Butera as the lone healthy catcher on the roster.
Mauer returned to the lineup Sunday, while Doumit started Sunday’s game at catcher before he was replaced by Herrmann in the eighth. Herrmann’s debut lasted just two innings, but he was all smiles after the game.
“It was a blur,” he said. “Everything went by so fast. This has been my dream since I was a little kid. I’m going to remember this forever. Hopefully I’ll have more opportunities to play.”
Mauer homers in his return: Although he had stayed relatively healthy almost the entire season, Mauer was sidelined for five games recently with back spasms. But he returned to the Twins’ lineup Sunday as the first baseman.
Batting in his typical No. 3 spot in the order, Mauer hit his 10th home run of the season in his first at-bat of the game. He sent a solo shot off White Sox starter Jake Peavy over the fence in left field for an early 1-0 Twins lead.
Mauer also doubled to the warning track in center field with one out in the fourth inning. It was his 30th double of the season.
Clearly, Mauer’s back is just fine.
With his 10th homer of the season, Mauer now has double-digit homers for the first time since his MVP season in 2009, when he hit a career-high 28 home runs. The 2012 season is only the third time in Mauer’s nine-year career that he reached the double-digit mark for home runs. He also hit 13 homers back in 2006, the same year he won his first batting title.
Speaking of batting titles, Mauer still has an outside shot to win yet another one. After going 2-for-3 in Sunday’s game, he raised his average to .321 — currently the fourth-highest in the American League. Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera leads all AL hitters with a .330 average. Angels rookie Mike Trout is just behind him at .329, while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is just ahead of Mauer with a .323 average.
If Mauer can come from behind to win the batting title in the final two weeks of the season, it would be the fourth of his career — and his first since 2009. He hit .347 to win his first in 2006, then hit .328 and .365 in 2008 and 2009, respectively, to take the crown.
Fans still filing in: Despite a second consecutive losing season, the Twins still have achieved the fourth-highest season attendance total in the team’s history. Through Sunday, Minnesota has drawn 2,580,329 fans to Target Field. The record was set in Target Field’s first year in 2010, when 3,223,640 fans came through the gates. Last year marked the second-highest total at 3,168,107. The only non-Target Field year to make the top four was 1988, the year after Minnesota won its first World Series. A total of 3,030,672 fans attended games at the Metrodome in 1988, the third-highest total in the club’s history.