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September 9, 2013

Thoma column: Twins may be catching on to a time share

How many catchers can a team fit into its lineup? The Twins seem determined to find out.

Joe Mauer remains on the sidelines with a concussion, but he was taking batting practice this weekend and the reports were good.

As for the rampant calls for Mauer to abandon catching, Terry Ryan essentially says: No. Mauer wants to catch, and Ryan and Ron Gardenhire want him to catch. So he'll catch when he returns.

Meanwhile, prospect Josmil Pinto has been a veritable line-drive machine with the Twins: 10-for-18 with three extra base hits entering Sunday's game. Nobody's legitimately a .556 hitter, but Pinto's minor league track record says he can rake.

And rookie Chris Herrmann, largely paired with fellow rookie Andrew Albers, has had his moments. As a left-handed hitter who can play in the outfield as well as catch, it's easy to see the 25-year-old carving out a career as a reserve catcher.

Mauer, Pinto, Herrmann — and then there's Ryan Doumit, the veteran switch hitter with one year and $3.5 million left on his contract.

Doumit's playing time has dried up since the arrival of Pinto and outfielder Alex Presley, even with Mauer out of action.

But that's been against Houston, Toronto and Anaheim. Now it will be Oakland and Tampa Bay. Gardenhire may well believe he'll be playing the pennant race fairly if he uses the established Doumit in these games with playoff implications.

Me, I'd rather he went with the kids, at least as long as Mauer's out. Doumit's justification for playing is that he's a quality hitter. But he hasn't hit this season, at least not to his usual standards, and he's at the age where good-hitting catchers frequently suffer a drastic decline at the plate.

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