Catching liability?

By: Kelly Thesier/

BOSTON — During Spring Training, it would have been easy to assume that the backup catching spot would be there for Jose Morales once he recovered from offseason right wrist surgery.

But now that Morales’ wrist is healed and he’s starting to catch and DH at Triple-A Rochester, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that Morales has to prove that he deserves to have that spot.

“That’s not a given at all. It depends on how he does
and whether he can catch and throw,” Gardenhire said. “There’s nothing
written in stone that that’s his job. Coming back from an injury, he has
to earn the promotion just like everybody else. He’s been told that,
and I think his agent’s been told that.”

The biggest test for Morales now is to show that he can
control the running game.

Morales threw out just one of 19 baserunners
attempting to steal over his 29 games in the big leagues last year and was charged with five passed balls. He wasn’t able to work on those skills this winter due to his wrist injury and he missed all of Spring Training as he recovered from surgery, making it difficult for the club to work with him on his issues.

But before Gardenhire can hand the backup catching position to Morales, he first needs to see that the catcher can help to control a running game.

“We know he’s not the strongest-armed kid in the world, that’s a given,”
Gardenhire said, “but you have to be able to be serviceable enough to
throw the ball down there and get the people you’re supposed to get,
that’s all. His thing is getting healthy.”

Gardenhire reiterated that he’s very happy with the job that Drew Butera has done in the backup catcher role. Although Morales is a better hitter, Butera “can catch and throw with the best of them,” according to Gardenhire. And while Butera is batting .136 for the Twins, the club feels he’s a good fit since he doesn’t get many starts playing behind Joe Mauer.

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