The Minnesota Twins finally settled on 25 players to open the season with following last night’s loss to the Boston Red Sox when the team decided on who the Opening Day backup catcher would be.
Chris Herrmann entered Spring Training as the underdog in this position battle but was able to gain the position by showing improvement in the batter’s box, along with a little help from Josmil Pinto getting bit with the injury bug. This news comes as a surprise to some, but having Pinto out of action for most of the spring played a big role in Herrmann winning the job.
Pinto was limited to just seven live games this spring due to multiple injuries, but he did have a strong showing in limited action by batting .353. He recently began playing once again after a concussion kept him out for a little while and he will be healthy enough to begin playing right away in Triple-A.
Herrmann is not the better offensively and he is a career .196 hitter over parts of three seasons with Minnesota. The 27-year-old backstop has only posted a career .263 mark in the minors. His slugging percentage is also nothing to write home about as he has just four home runs and 23 runs driven in in 97 career games. Pinto, on the other hand, is a far better offensive threat and has 11 career home runs in 78 career games to go with a career batting average that is 61 points higher than Herrmann’s.
There are a lot of things to like about what Herrmann brings to the table, especially his ability to play multiple positions. In 33 Major League games last season, Herrmann actually only caught once and spent the rest of his time playing left and right field. He has also worked out at first base a bit this spring and showed a strong defensive ability at the position in last night’s loss against the Boston Red Sox.
The issue here is Herrmann will probably be limited to just backup catcher duties on this roster. Former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was known for holding more than two catchers on his roster, which could allow one of them like Herrmann or even Ryan Doumit to go out and play multiple positions. With first year manager Paul Molitor sticking to just two catchers, expect the Twins to only use Herrmann at his listed position this season.
Herrmann probably doesn’t have the longest leash in the world on this roster. Pinto getting injured twice this spring really opened up the competition and if Herrmann finds himself batting around the .200 mark and not getting many extra base hits, a healthy and younger Pinto will surely rise from the minors to take the position.