Here's The Catch: Twins Put Herrmann Behind The Plate





FORT MYERS, Fla.—Chris Herrmann was a star second baseman in high school, a starting third baseman at Miami and a left fielder with Rookie-level Elizabethton shortly after being drafted last June. And after watching Herrmann play all those positions for all those years, the Twins are now convinced:

He's a catcher.

"Actually, we always projected him as a catcher. We worked him out back there before we drafted him," vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We would have switched him last year, but you don't want to throw too much at a guy too soon."

So they put him in left field, where Herrmann racked up 70 hits and 33 walks in just 59 games while getting comfortable with professional baseball. Now they want him to challenge himself at a new position, one he occasionally manned at Alvin (Texas) CC.

The Twins have had success moving infielders behind the plate; former second baseman Jose Morales is expected to be Joe Mauer's backup in Minnesota this season. And Herrmann, 22, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2009, has the footwork and the hands necessary for the job, the Twins believe. "If he's going to be a major leaguer," Radcliff predicted, "it'll be as a catcher."

Assuming he can overcome his one weakness, anyway. "There's still a question about whether his arm will hold up," Radcliff said. "He grades out as an average arm for a catcher, but we don't know about the rigors of playing every day."

If he can handle the job—Herrmann likely will begin with low Class A Beloit—the Twins have no doubt that he will hit. A lefthanded batter, Herrmann doesn't hit for much power, but his .391 on-base percentage last year has Minnesota excited about his future.

"Lefthanded catchers, those guys have real value," Radcliff said. "We're always looking for catchers who can hit. Everybody is."

TWIN KILLINGS

• Righthander Loek Van Mil's first big league camp was spoiled when he experienced soreness in his pitching shoulder just days after arriving in Florida. The Twins held him out of drills for two weeks, but when he took the mound again, he threw just one pitch before the pain returned.

• Cuban righthander Yoslan Herrera, who received a $1.9 million contract from the Pirates upon defecting in 2007, signed a minor league deal with the Twins. Herrera, 28, went 11-1, 3.23 with Double-A Altoona last year, but he ran up a 9.82 ERA in five big league starts.