Twins' Drew Butera May Back Up MVP Joe Mauer In 2010





MINNEAPOLIS—Drew Butera had a lousy winter. But he may be in line for an incredible spring.

The 26-year-old Triple-A catcher batted .200/.265/.289 in a disappointing 14-game stint in Puerto Rico this winter, but circumstances may be lining up to anoint him as Joe Mauer's backup in April.

Long-time Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond signed with the Indians. Wilson Ramos, the system's top catching prospect, has played just 54 games at the Double-A level, and isn't ready to handle a big league staff.

Jose Morales, expected to step into Redmond's job, had surgery on his right wrist this offseason. The Twins hope a six- to eight-week recovery will have him ready by mid-March, but that's hardly a given.

Enter Butera, who is "a pretty polished catch-and-throw guy," according to farm director Jim Rantz. "We won't know what's going to happen until training camp, but he would probably have an edge if Morales isn't ready."

Butera might already be in the majors if he hit like his father Sal, who batted .251 for the Twins in his first three years in the big leagues, 1980-82.

But the junior Butera, acquired from the Mets in 2007 for Luis Castillo, is a career .214 hitter in the minors. He batted .211/.268/.292 at Triple-A Rochester last year. "It's not that he's striking out a lot," Rantz said. "He just doesn't find the holes."

Still, Butera's defense-first skill set may be enough to earn him a shot. "He does a nice job handling the pitching staff, and that's important to Gardy (Twins manager Ron Gardenhire)," Rantz said. "If he hit .240, he'd be there."

TWIN KILLINGS

• Outfielder David Winfree, a 13th-round pick in 2003, signed a minor league deal with the Yankees, a mild surprise to the Twins. "He was really starting to come around," Rantz said of Winfree, who batted .273/.317/.460 with 14 home runs for Rochester. "He was looking for a better opportunity, but I don't know with the Yankees how much opportunity he's going to get."

• Australian shortstop James Beresford is in line for a promotion to high Class A Fort Myers, Rantz said—especially if he reports to camp with a little extra baggage. "We're waiting on him to add some strength, some size," Rantz said. "He's 150 pounds, and can handle the bat. But he needs to add some bulk to hit the ball into the gaps."