To begin, I like Ron Gardenhire. A lot of it stems from nostalgia, but I appreciate his candor, as well as his general stewardship of the Twins during his tenure with the team.
Like many, I have been confused and befuddled by many of his in-game decisions and substitutions, but ultimately, I don’t necessarily believe that a baseball manager has the impact that coaches in other sports can have upon their team.
That said, in the case of Josmil Pinto, I am growing fearful.
There are a lot of people out there clamoring for Pinto to be named the everyday catcher, and to be clear, I am not one of them. The Twins seem to be in love with Kurt Suzuki, fine. Let Pinto serve as the backup and work to hone his defensive prowess with Terry Steinbach and the coaching staff.
A lot of the people calling for starting Pinto, claim that his bat could be a difference maker in a Twins lineup that sorely needs it. This is where I am not yet sold.
Pinto was a shimmering light that came out of a dismal season in 2013, but we should remember that we have an extremely limited sample size when judging Pinto’s ability to hit major league pitching (or AAA pitching for that matter). Pinto had a wonderful 83 plate appearances with the Twins last year, but they need to find out if he is for real, or Chris Parmelee 2.0.
This means more at bats rather than less. Which is fine, because this team is going nowhere this season and their roster is so bereft of offense that they could DH him a great deal, while still giving him the opportunity to backup Suzuki occasionally. This scenario actually sounds fairly promising.
This is where Ron Gardenhire comes in.
“I’m not looking for a DH candidate in a catcher,” says Gardenhire. “I need two catchers. If I have that then I’m going to need three catchers and I don’t want to do that.”
Gardenhire is scared of losing the DH in the event that Suzuki would get hurt and Pinto would need to go in for him. I guess that could happen, and it could be problematic…
But here is where this scenario breaks down.
This is something that would affect the outcome of one game and is also pretty rare, which seems like an odd thing to be obsessed about for a team with little hope of being competitive, but fine. They either need to carry a third catcher, or send Pinto to AAA Rochester.
Your team is terrible, and it’s not exactly like you’ve got hungry sluggers in AAA kicking down the door at the moment. But if you want to DH Chris Collabello against left handed pitching, go ahead. Just let Pinto get his at bats in AAA for a while.
We have seen a troubling trend from Gardenhire in recent years when it has come to dealing with young players. From throwing them under the bus in the media, to getting irked about little things that seem to be more about being grumpy and fed up rather than playing the right way. If Gardenhire is going to be the coach of this team going forward, he needs to start looking at the long-term rather than the immediate.
Pinto’s bat may bring more immediate help to the team as the backup catcher, but there is just no way to spin less at bats for a developing hitter as a positive, especially when the reasoning for doing so is based upon the ridiculous fear of losing your DH, but we’ll give you that one Gardy.
If you want to get a look at Collabello, great. Heck, if you want to send out Kubel to test his .235 career line against lefties, perfect. We’ll give you plenty of rope, as long as you extend the same courtesy to the developing players in the organization.
This season should be devoted to sussing out who should be a member of this team going forward, and whether that happens in Rochester or in Minneapolis, a larger sample size from the youth in the organization will be crucial to making those decisions.