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Butera won't Cut It

The Star Tribune is reporting that Drew Butera will likely be the second catcher come opening day.

Now, hopefully this is just a stop-gap situation and Mauer will return early in the regular season. Riding out two or three weeks of Mike Redmond, and Butera may be alright, but if Mauer’s injury progresses much further, this just isn’t an acceptable alternative.

It is irrational to say the Twins need to go out and pick up a high quality catching option at this point, unless Mauer is worse off than the organization has let on. There is one glaring problem with the likely selection of Butera as the backup catcher, however.

The Twins are essentially replacing their best hitter with a player who will likely become the worst hitting catcher in baseball. Every time the Twins start Butera they will be giving up around .120 in batting average, and around .200 in OBP. On top of this, Redmond is considered a solid defensive catcher. Why not make Jose Morales, who hit .315 and .311 the last two seasons in AAA, and has been decent in regards to getting on base.

When you are trying to replace the best hitter in an already relatively weak offense, it is important to not replace that player with an automatic out. Butera is an automatic out.

Redmond will obviously get the majority of the at bats while Mauer is sidelined, and he has proven himself to be a capable player (as long as he isn’t hitting in the three hole). The fact is, however, if Mauer is going to be out for longer than a few weeks, the Twins need to go out and get another catcher, even if it is just another Redmond-type back up.

Butera just isn’t going to hack it for a substantial period of time.
There is something to be said for the Twins organizational philosophy of valuing defense and fundamentals over everything else, but this ideology doesn’t make up for the loss of the team’s best hitter.

The hope is that players like Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, and of course Justin Morneau, will pick up the slack while Mauer is out. However, the only one of these three who has completely proven himself is Morneau. Kubel and Young have each had solid springs, and a certain level of optimism is appropriate, but if they can’t step up the Twins offense could be in a world of hurt.

In Butera’s defense, when one of the best catchers in baseball is on the disabled list, the lineup will obviously be hurting. However the drop-off statistically between Mauer and Butera is so great, they are almost polar opposites as hitters. That isn’t a good thing for Butera.

Butera may work as a stop-gap option, but if he is still on the roster come May, something needs to change.

Written By: Eric Johnson
Look for his column every Thursday and check out his blog at www.juiceandthekicker.blogspot.com

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