DETROIT — It’s a good thing, Chris Gimenez was saying after the Twins’ 6-4 victory on Sunday, that he’s 34 years old and has almost a decade in the majors behind him. Otherwise? “I’d have been done for,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d have been able to catch another ball after that.”
See, he wasn’t catching all of the ones Ervin Santana was throwing already. In fact, it had become quite a problem — Santana threw a wild pitch in the fifth inning, and Gimenez allowed three balls to glance off his glove and roll away. Or, as he put it, “pretty much swatted them away into the dugout. … It was the inning from hell.”
The inning also included an error by Miguel Sano, who allowed his foot to lose contact with first base as he caught a throw from shortstop, and a walk and a hit batter by Santana, so Gimenez wasn’t the only culprit in Detroit’s three-run inning.
“I haven’t had to watch an inning like that for awhile,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It was tough. He’s a solid catcher.”
Usually, sure. But Sunday? “I’m a big-league catcher. I should be able to catch a baseball,” Gimenez said.
He made no excuses; there was no glare from the sun, he said, or too-dark sunglasses. But there were a few extenuating circumstances.
The first one came on a backdoor slider from Santana that didn’t break as intended, and Gimenez moved his glove too quickly to catch it, appearing to bat the ball away instead. The second one came as John Hicks was trying to bunt. “I got completely blocked out. All I saw was his back and nothing else,” Gimenez said. “And when he pulls back, it’s a fastball in, about a foot and a half from my glove, and it was just everything I could do to get my glove on it and not let it hit me right in the throat.”
The third one came as James McCann struck out. “He tried to frame that one, tried to catch it in the webbing while keeping the glove [over] the plate,” Molitor said. “Just a rough sequence there. It kind of sucks the air out of you.”
“I kept thinking, ‘There’s no way this is happening,’ “ Gimenez said of the mistakes, which allowed the Tigers to score two unearned runs. “This is unbelievable.”
The worst part, Gimenez said, was that his difficulties seemed to infect Santana, too. The veteran righthander would up walking Hicks and hitting Victor Martinez with a pitch, misfires that the catcher accepted the blame for.
“At that point as a pitcher, and rightfully so, you don’t know if the guy’s even going to catch it or not,” Gimenez said. “You’re not willing to really snap one off, or get in there on somebody.”
Gimenez was talking to Santana at his locker after the game. Offering to buy you dinner, Ervin? “Kind of,” Santana said with a laugh. “He’s feeling very generous right now.”