Monday, June 13, 2011

Back-Up Catcher: Butera vs. Rivera

Rivera has fit in with the Twins this season (Photo: AP)
The Twins will have a tough decision to make in the coming days in regards to their back-up catcher role. There are reports that have Joe Mauer returning to the Twins as early as Thursday afternoon. With the return of Mauer, the Twins will need to decide who will be the back-up option behind their returning superstar.

During Mauer's extensive time on the DL, Drew Butera and Rene Rivera have both been given opportunities to show their value in the back-up role. There are things that each player has to offer the Twins, but at the end of the week one of these catchers will be taking a flight to join the Rochester Red Wings.

Drew Butera's Resume
Defense has always been the strong suit for Butera during his tenure with the Twins. During his career he has thrown out 42% of potential base stealers. In a limited role the last two season, he has managed to have fielding percentage of .985, a decent mark for a back-up catcher.

Butera's bat has been a liability during his professional career. Last season he ended the year with a .197 BA, .237 OBP, and .296 SLG. This season he has once again struggled during his time in the batters box. The 2011 season has seen Butera muster a .174 BA, .207 OBP, and .261 SLG. Those numbers have sky rocketed in the month of June. Since the beginning of the month Butera is batting a robust .400 at the plate with a .700 SLG and 6 RBI.

The relationship between Butera and Carl Pavano is also something that has developed in the last two seasons. Butera's role as the personal catcher for Pavano has lead to success for Pavano on the mound. This could be a role that saves Butera's career in the big leagues.

Rene Rivera's Resume
Rivera is in his first season as a member of the Minnesota Twins organization. The Twins are Rivera's fourth team in the last four years. Before this season, his last major league experience was in 2006 with the Seattle Mariners.

Rivera has shown a little more offensive consistency than his counterpart, Butera. For the season, Rivera has amassed a .193 BA, .258 OBP, and .298 SLG. The month of June has not been as kind to Rivera as it has been to Butera. Since the beginning of the month, Rivera has only been batting .150 with a .190 OBP and .200 SLG. Rivera has also shown the ability to hit better than Butera at the minor league level.

Much like the Butera-Pavano relationship, Rivera has started to build a relationship with Francisco Liriano. When Mauer returns to the Twins, there is a good chance that the team is going to look to keep Mauer healthy. One of the best ways to keep Mauer healthy could be to keep a different catcher behind the plate for Liriano's outings. Rivera could provide that relief for Mauer when he returns.

Overall, Ron Gardenhire and the Twins will have a tough call to make by the end of the week. Either one of these players can provide the same role for the Twins. My vote is to give Rene Rivera the spot for the time being. If the Twins are going to make a run at a playoff spot, the team needs Liriano to be an ace. Liriano looked like an ace on Sunday and Rivera was the man behind the plate.

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