Our guy La Velle E. Neal III -- LEN3 or E-3 if you prefer -- wrote today about the Twins' catching situation. The big question: Will they keep three backstops around this season, or just two?
The main reasons for the question would seem to be:
1) The health of Joe Mauer
2) The comfort of Ron Gardenhire. Says Gardy: "You know I've never had a problem with three catchers if I have a good enough baseball team to carry three catchers and have enough thump from the other positions that I don't worry if we have three catchers."
As La Velle points out via Elias, the Twins have only needed to use three catchers in the same game once during the entire 10-season Gardenhire era -- a lone game in 2005. Emergencies in individual games aren't the only reason to keep three catchers around, but that figure does speak to the very high percentage of times that a No. 3 catcher -- if he cannot do other things -- basically is collecting dust on the bench.
The crew this year would be a little different, since free agent signee Ryan Doumit is not a great defensive catcher and could play other positions like DH, first base and right field. But it still primarily comes down to Mauer's health. If the $184 million man can play 110-120 games at catcher (at least), there shouldn't be a need for a No. 3 guy. If he can't, well, we're back to 2011 when three different guys started at least 35 games at the position.
By all accounts, Mauer is in better shape this year than last. As a matter of personal preference, unless Doumit proves to be so much of a defensive liability that he just shouldn't be behind the plate -- and with 400 games as a catcher in his career already, we hardly think that is the case -- we really want to see just two catchers on this roster to give the Twins as much versatility elsewhere as possible. Having a guy like Drew Butera feels like a luxury, not a necessity.
Would you rather see this breakdown:
Mauer 115 games caught, Doumit 47 ... with each getting starts at DH and maybe 1B from time to time ... or
Mauer 90, Doumit 40, Butera (or J.R. Towles) 32
On a team that figures to be challenged to score runs, the answer should be simple. The more complex question, again, is Mauer's health. So we leave you with the headline question: Just how many games do you think he will catch this season?