At the beginning of spring, there was a question about what the Twins would do with the men behind the plate. Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit were locks to make the roster. Minnesota carried three catchers for most of 2012 so one assumed that a third catcher would be on the roster in 2013.
Instead, Mauer and Doumit began the season as the only members of the Twins catching core. Middle infielder Eduardo Escobar was the emergency-only back-up. Drew Butera and Chris Herrmann were in the running for the third catcher role but both players started the season in Rochester.
It was a short run for Butera at Rochester. In his first at-bat, a pitch hit him on his hand; his pinky finger was broken and he hasn't been back on the field since. At 29 years old, Butera isn't exactly up-and-coming. He has over 500 plate appearances at the big league level and fans know what to expect from him.
The front office has made some interesting choices with Butera so far this year. He could have been dropped from the 40-man roster on multiple occasions. The Twins have five catchers on their 40-man roster and Butera's .183/.232/.265 career MLB batting line is far below replacement level. His time might be running out in Minnesota, especially with other players' performances.
Herrmann is getting his second taste of the big leagues after being a September call-up last season. His brief MLB stint last year didn't generate many memories but he is back now with more positive results. On Sunday afternoon, he hit his first career home run as part of his first multi-hit game.
The ability of Herrmann to play multiple positions also makes him an intriguing roster option. On Sunday, he was starting in left field and this is a tendency that has continued from the minors. Over the course of his five seasons in the Twins system, he has played 169 games in left field and 220 games as catcher.
When other members of the Twins roster begin to get healthy, it could get tough for the Twins to send him back down to Rochester. He is 25 years old and he has only 43 games of Triple-A experience. As the long 162-game schedule continues, the Twins are going to want a third catcher and it's looking more and more as though that will be Herrmann.
Josmil Pinto is the other catcher on the Twins 40-man roster. He has played this year's entire schedule for Double-A New Britain. After a very strong season for Fort Myers last year, Pinto is putting together what might be his best year as a professional. Through 55 games, he is batting .332/.426/.535 with nine home runs, 12 doubles, and 42 RBI.
New Britain has used him as a catcher and a DH this year but he is still very good behind the plate. He has thrown out 31% of base stealers. Pinto has also done a good job with some of the best young pitchers in the organization. New Britain pitchers Trevor May, Alex Meyer, and Logan Darnell could be on the same path as Pinto to the big leagues.
Mauer and Doumit will likely continue to get most of the time behind the plate in the next two seasons. Herrmann can be a solid third catcher and part-time outfielder for the present and he is a viable option to take over the role of primary back-up when Doumit's contract expires. And if Pinto keeps playing like this, it will be hard to keep him out of the big leagues for very much longer.
The present members of the Twins catching core continue to make their mark on the club. Players like Herrmann and Pinto make it fun to look at who might be future longer-term fixtures. Looking ahead, the Twins' catching roster looks to be in good shape.