We are half-way through "Pitchers and Catchers Week" here at NoDak Twins Fan. The first workout for these positions happens on Friday morning and there are a lot of topics to cover. So far this week, my posts have looked like this:
Monday- Joe Nathan: To baby or not to baby
Tuesday- Pat Neshek: The key to the 'pen
Wednesday- Drew Butera: A growing cult following
A couple of weeks ago I looked at all of the catchers that the Twins have invited to Spring Training this year in a post I called, "What's the Catch for the Twins?" The Twins have made a lot of moves in the past year that have had catchers as the focal point. Catching prospect Wilson Ramos exited to the Nationals in favor of Matt Capps and Jose Morales was dealt to the Rockies.
At the beginning of last season the Twins entered camp with four catchers that would see time at the big league level (Butera, Mauer, Morales, Ramos) and now they are down to two of those players (Mauer, Butera) This shift from excess depth to lack of depth means there is a lot riding on Drew Butera as the Twins prepare to enter the 2011 season.
Drew Butera entered last season as an unknown to most Twins fans. His name sounded familiar to fans since his dad, Sal Butera, was part of the organization in the early 1980's and returned to the 1987 World Series team. Morales had been hampered by some injuries and the Twins didn't want to waste Ramos sitting on the bench behind Mauer. Because of these reasons, Butera was given his chance and 2010 and he made the most of it.
In his first season with the Twins, Butera's offensive numbers are gross to look at (.197 BA, .533 OPS, 0.3 WAR), but Butera wasn't in the game to knock the cover off the ball. Butera found a role with the Twins by providing a reliable game-caller behind the plate, a personal catcher for Pavano, and a solid defensive position player. Shortly after the All-Star Break, the Twins won 8 straight games that had an appearance from Mr. Butera. This streak included him catching three complete game shutouts. Butera found his role and fans were drawn to his performance on the field.
The Twins seem to always have a quirky, popular player that doesn't always put up the best numbers but seems to have a cult following of fans. In recent memory players like Lew Ford and Nick Punto have filled this role on the Twins. Punto jerseys and Ford t-shirts will continued to be seen at Target Field in the years to come. These players seem to have a personality that makes it easy to relate to for fans.
Much like players of the past, Butera has slowly started to gain his own cult following. Butera t-shirts and jersey's were already visible at TwinsFest. Seeing someone with his jersey on was something that Butera was even surprised about at the Twins 1st Annual Tweet and Greet. He recently started his own Twitter account and as of last night he was up to 1,459 followers (@drewbutera on Twitter). As the season progresses I expect to see more Butera fans continuing to come out of the woodwork at Target Field. His "following" will continue to grow and it is going to be fun to watch it expand.