Friday, May 6, 2011

The catcher shuffle

With Joe Mauer on the shelf, the spring training question of "who is the Twins No. 3 catcher" has taken an importance that wasn't fully appreciated in March.

Rene Rivera was the
Mariners' 2nd-round
draft pick in 2001,
the same year the Twins
signed Joe Mauer.
It also, it would appear, wasn't correctly answered.

The answer the Twins came up with in Fort Myers was Steve Holm. The 31-year-old career minor leaguer got the call, went 2-for-17 and failed to throw out a basestealer. He started five games; the Twins lost four of them and gave up double-digit runs in the last two.

To say that Holm wasn't the correct answer to the question implies that there was a correct one. Rene Rivera is getting his chance now; there's little reason to believe that he's any better than Holm.

Of the three upper level catchers who got serious looks in spring training, the one who has the best chance of carving out a career in the majors is Danny Lehmann, who is younger and less experienced than Rivera and Holm. And Lehmann profiles as a Drew Butera type — a catch-and-throw guy without much to offer at the plate.

The Twins this spring made a pair of moves — Pat Neshek to the Padres and trading for Scott Diamond's Rule V rights — designed to open a pair of spots on the 40-man roster. The catcher moves have filled both those slots — Holm remains on the 40-man roster— and that seems a high price to pay for misjudging the quality of Holm as a hitter. Ron Gardenhire said Holm "can swing it," as assessment that had to have been based on 15 spring training at-bats rather than totality of his record.

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