New catcher Pinto makes Target Field debut this weekend

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2013 - 12:14 AM
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Minnesota Twins' Josmil Pinto, right, is congratulated in the dugout after scoring on a Doug Bernier ground rule double in th fifth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

 

That catcher with the amazingly high batting average will be back behind the plate for the Twins this weekend, someone rarely seen at Target Field lately.

Or ever, actually.

Josmil Pinto, whose career batting average stands at .700 after three major-league games, will be making his Minneapolis debut against the Blue Jays this weekend.

Oh, were you thinking of somebody else?

Well, Twins fans might need to get used to having more than one career catcher in the lineup before long, because it’s clear to the team’s management that Pinto has a real future here.

“Pinto is definitely one of the guys we look at as going to be a starting catcher,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after watching the eight-year minor leaguer drill four hits in five at-bats in just his second big-league game. “He’s got enough tools to be a starting catcher in this league on an everyday basis.”

The position is normally filled by an eight-time All-Star, but Joe Mauer’s battle with a concussion, and the mileage the position puts on his 30-year-old body, make the future more unknown than ever. So the Twins have made sure they’re covered, with a young catcher who may be ready to take over the job ... well, how’s Friday?

“I don’t think he’s far away at all from being a contributing major-league player,” despite the fact that he’s only played 19 games above Class AA, said Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ vice president for player personnel. “He has an excellent chance to be in the major leagues next year.”

Pinto is 24, and has the same frame — and same Venezuelan hometown, coincidentally — as Wilson Ramos, another catcher developed by the Twins who found his path blocked by Mauer.

Ramos, sent to Washington in exchange for closer Matt Capps three seasons ago, is a little better defensively, Gardenhire said.

“Wilson was an accomplished catcher. He played a lot of winter ball and really refined it,” Gardenhire said. “This kid’s had to grow as a catcher, work at it a little harder, and has really done a nice job of making himself a player. He’s a strong kid, and he can flat-out hit.”

In addition to a strong throwing arm (though not quite Ramos’ cannon), Pinto learned English over the past two years, in order to better communicate with pitchers, and has worked with pitching coaches to understand how to call a game.

“He did a nice job,” said Kevin Correia, who worked with Pinto in his start on Sunday. “As the game went on, we definitely got on the same page.”

The Twins also have 25-year-old Chris Herrmann to put behind the plate, though Gardenhire said he would be reluctant to limit Herrmann to one position.

“We look at Herrmann as one of those guys who can catch, play in the outfield, play all over the place,” he said. “Not an everyday [catcher].”

The two of them likely will share the position this month, with Ryan Doumit starting an occasional game back there, too.

And next year?

“I don’t know exactly what Joe’s going to end up doing,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “We’ll have to figure out where [Pinto] fits into the catching rotation.”

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