Back as a catcher for the first time since getting pulled mid-inning last year, Matthew LeCroy called a shutout.
DETROIT - The last time Matthew LeCroy played catcher in the big leagues, he allowed seven stolen bases, committed two errors and brought his manager, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, to tears.
So he was an easy target for teammates' wisecracks Monday, when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put him back at catcher for the first time since May 25, 2006.
After deciding it was no longer worth letting Joe Mauer play through his myriad injuries, Gardenhire had two healthy options at catcher: LeCroy and Chris Heintz. LeCroy was batting .565 for his career against Tigers starter Nate Robertson, so Gardenhire let him catch Carlos Silva.
LeCroy went 0-for-4 and allowed three stolen bases but wound up catching a shutout, as the Twins won 2-0.
"We got him up here because we needed a catcher," Gardenhire said of LeCroy. "I've seen his hands. He has soft hands. He calls a good ballgame. He just doesn't throw very well. You know, I'm not too awful worried about it."
LeCroy said he wasn't either. Then he dropped a cup, spilling ice and fruit punch over the floor.
Sitting nearby, Torii Hunter couldn't resist. "You're trying to catch today?" Hunter said.
"Don't tell Silva," LeCroy said, picking up the ice.
LeCroy, 31, had caught 120 previous games in the big leagues, including 49 as a rookie for the Twins in 2000. But that 120th game behind the plate lives in infamy.
Playing for Washington despite bone spurs in his right elbow, LeCroy came undone against Houston.
Robinson made the unusual decision to pull his catcher mid-inning, using Robert Fick to replace LeCroy in the seventh. Afterward, Robinson had tears streaming down both cheeks as he said: "It's not LeCroy's fault. We know his shortcomings. They took advantage of them today. ... I wasn't trying to embarrass him in any way."
That day, LeCroy said, "If my daddy was managing this team, I'm sure he would have done the same thing."
Nothing is sacred around the Twins, of course. Broadcaster Dan Gladden asked Gardenhire if he was going to take a tissue to the dugout.
LeCroy said Gardenhire joked with him about it in spring training, but the Twins still let him catch about 30 games for Class AAA Rochester.
With Mauer and Mike Redmond injured, the Twins promoted Heintz and Jose Morales. When Morales sprained his ankle in his first major league game, they called LeCroy, who was home in South Carolina.
Mauer had started 10 of 13 games entering Monday, but he has been playing through a left hamstring injury and likely will have hernia surgery next month.
Gardenhire said Mauer will catch one or two more games this week, and Wednesday -- with Johan Santana pitching -- is the only definite.
"I just don't want to keep forcing this issue," Gardenhire said.
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