Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All the multi-position catchers

Dan Rohlfing has
had a good spring:
.296/.367/.593 in
30 plate appearances.
The Twins on Monday optioned out Drew Butera, which means they'll carry two catchers — Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit — who'll both be in the lineup at five to six days a week. Catching, DHing, corner outfield, first base — flexibility is the byword.

Flexibility and hitting. Mauer's a gifted defensive catcher and Doumit is not, but they both hit well enough to be used at less important defensive positions. Butera is a good receiver, but he's not a quality hitter; there's no gain to have him play first base or left field.

The Twins also on Monday officially reassigned Dan Rohlfing, the last of the many non-roster catching invitees, to minor-league camp, but kept him on the major league side for depth. I'm not sure what, as a practical matter, the difference is between being a non-roster invitee and being a minor-leaguer on the major league side, but Butera's gone from the clubhouse and, at least as of Monday, Rohlfing was not.

Rohlfing's minor league record doesn't scream prospect, but he appears to have made an impression in camp, even if (or perhaps because) he played quite a bit at other positions than his native catcher.

Multi-position catchers seem to be proliferating in the Twins organization. Mauer. Doumit. Chris Herrmann, who figures to play at lot at Triple-A Rochester, has played considerable outfield in the Twins system and was a third baseman in college. Rohlfing, who has split the past two years between high A and Double A, has a few dozen games in the outfield in the minors and has played considerable first base this spring.

Catcher is a specialty position, and as illustrated by the fact that Drew Butera has almost three years and more than 500 plate appearances in the majors with a  .183 career batting average, defensive chops behind the plate are valued. Most catchers are strictly catchers.

The Twins appear to be making a conscious effort to break that mold.

But Herrmann and Rohlfing and any other multi-position catcher — perhaps Mike Kvasnicka, the Minnesota native and former Gopher the Twins traded for Monday — have to hit to make their multi-position ability meaningful.

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