The Minnesota Twins have inched closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday by sending catcher Drew Butera to Triple-A and reassigning others to the minor league camp.
Butera, who has been the primary backup to Joe Mauer for the past three seasons, was expected to make the club out of spring training. However, the Twins will rely on Ryan Doumit to be the primary backup at catcher to Mauer while also having Eduardo Escobar around as an emergency catcher if need be.
Butera is one of the better defensive catchers that the Twins have in their system and he has made his living on being a defensive specialist in the majors. Butera also has had the reputation of being skilled at calling a baseball game from behind the plate and has also demonstrated good rapport with the pitchers he catches for.
Carl Pavano, who was with the Twins over the past three seasons, was notable for preferring to have Butera be his catcher over Mauer. Whether that is because Mauer is more assertive behind the plate or whether it is due to the better rapport that Butera develops with the pitchers in between their starts, Butera has earned the preference of certain pitchers on past rotations with the Twins.
Butera’s struggles throughout his career have been offensively and his inability to hit consistently. His career batting average over his three seasons and 184 career games with the Twins is a paltry .183, but the insurance he provided the Twins in case Mauer was injured was invaluable. Butera didn’t fare much better during his stint at the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy where he only hit .188 in 16 at-bats over four games.
It is clear that his offensive limitations are a contributing reason behind his demotion to the minors, but it is interesting that the Twins are opting to use two catchers instead of three.
Mauer has had a history of being injury-prone and Butera has been a constant replacement over the past few seasons. The Twins must now rely on Doumit to be the backup and spell Mauer behind the plate every few games.
Doumit has had a reputation for being a below-average defensive catcher, but an above-average offensive catcher. The Twins’ like Doumit’s versatility and envisioned using him in the outfield and as a designated hitter during the 2013. Apparently, the team also has plans for using him behind the plate as well.
Butera’s demotion may open the door for the Twins to bring in a free agent bat to use off the bench, or possibly allow a player like Wilkin Ramirez to make the roster.
The team still has two more players to cut before the official roster is set for opening day and there are many roster battles yet to be decided. It certainly is the dog days of spring training but luckily, it will all come to an end in one week.