With Opening Day only five short days away, the Twins’ final roster is starting to shape up. Yesterday, they predictably cut Jose Mijares following a very rough spring as well as infielder Alejandro Machado. Catcher Jeff Christy was informed that he’ll stay with the team until Saturday before being dismissed from big-league camp.
The surprise of the day came in the news that the Twins will carry Jose Morales north as backup catcher rather than Drew Butera. All spring, indications had been given that Butera had a substantial edge over Morales thanks to his defense and game-calling ability, but in the end the Twins went with Morales and his higher offensive upside.
Ah, how things have changed. It seems that the Ron Gardenhire of 2006 -- the one who cut Jason Bartlett in favor of Juan Castro -- would have almost certainly opted for the punchless defensive specialist in this situation. But clearly Gardy’s methods have changed, otherwise we’d see the Twins bringing both Morales and Butera north, considering how fiercely the manager once believed that a third catcher was a dire necessity. Gardenhire retains some of his annoying managerial habits, but if you’re looking for proof that he is evolving and adjusting as a big-league skipper, this is a pretty good example.
For what it’s worth, I think Morales is the right choice. There’s sound logic in carrying a backup catcher who is a great game-caller and can ably handle the young pitching staff, but the 26-year-old Morales deserves a shot. Plus, since Morales isn’t a total offensive liability, the Twins can afford to play him more often in an effort to keep the 37-year-old Redmond fresh. The move might backfire if Morales proves unequipped for the job defensively or if his ankle flares up, but coaches seem adamant that he’s made serious progress in that department this spring. And if anything goes wrong, calling up Butera to take over is a quick and easy process, which is why carrying three catchers never really made any sense.