It was like he’s been in the majors all season. Josmil Pinto slammed a double in each of his first two at-bats Wednesday, his first game since being called up from Class AAA Rochester.
It was a reminder of the offensive promise the Twins bought into when they broke camp in late March with Pinto on the roster. Assistant general manager Rob Antony went as far as to describe Pinto as “one of our best hitters,” at the time — even though he had only 21 games of major league experience entering the season.
While Pinto has pop at the plate, there is occasional slop behind it. The Twins continue to work with him on his catching skills, but issues remain. It was later on Wednesday where the Twins’ perplexing problem with Pinto surfaced.
Righthander Trevor May threw a pitch to Adam Eaton that was in the dirt and off the plate, and all Pinto did was stab at it with his glove. The ball went to the backstop, allowing Marcus Semien to advance to second. Semien eventually scored on an Eaton single, the third run off of May.
“It wasn’t an easy play,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “but he still has to shift his body and get in front of that ball and block it. Those are the things we’ve talked about with [bench coach] Terry Steinbach.”
Pinto closed his eyes in a pained expression when asked about the play.
“I don’t want to think about that play,” he said. “That was yesterday, but I have to realize that I’ve got to block that ball.”
Pinto, 25, was considered the Twins’ catcher of the future, with Kurt Suzuki on a one-year deal as a stopgap measure this season. But the Twins signed Suzuki — who was immediately popular with the pitching staff — to a three-year contract extension before the July 31 trade deadline.
That buys them time to work with Pinto, who can be Suzuki’s backup next season.
Pinto, bothered by a sore shoulder this season, was batting .222 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 43 games when he was sent down to Rochester on June 11. At Rochester, he hit a more respectable .288 with seven homers, 41 RBI and .366 on base percentage in 79 games.
He can have a role with the 2015 Twins, but he has to improve his defense.
“Up here he got into a couple bad habits,” Gardenhire said. “I think he had a bit of a sore shoulder and he was working on it between starts and it wasn’t getting any better. But, mechanically, he was getting really violent throwing the ball. They had to clean that up and that was all basically footwork and getting his arm in the right slot.
“Calling the game, too. Signs, sequences and things like that. He got pretty pattern oriented, if you know what I mean. We talked to him about it but, ultimately, when the game got going he would get caught going in the same pattern. That’s just a young catcher trying to figure it out.”
When Pinto was sent down, minor league field coordinator Joel Lepel, a catcher in the minors, worked with Pinto for several days. Rochester manager Gene Glynn told Gardenhire this week that Pinto is better.
“Joel Lepel really worked hard with him and did great,” Glynn said. “Hopefully the things that Steine had passed down to us got covered and they can keep going with that. But I think Josmil feels better about himself.”
Pinto has roughly three weeks to show he’s better behind the plate.
“I’m still working, still working,” Pinto said. “In this business you can’t stop working. I work hard every day and then we’ll see what happens.’’