ST. PETERSBURG -- Drew Butera has received rave reviews from his pitchers for his performance behind the plate lately.
Manager Ron Gardenhire explained the high praise, especially from Carl Pavano, as a result of Butera's defensive skills, the prime reason the catcher is seeing time in the Majors.
"He's giving them a low target. He's a catch-and-throw guy. That's what he does," Gardenhire said. "He's got soft hands and the whole package. That's kind of why we kept him up here, because we like the way he receives the ball. The pitchers feel good when they're throwing to him, too. That's why you keep him."
While experience might be the best way to learn for some, Gardenhire said Butera actually developed the most by sitting in the dugout and watching Joe Mauer and other big league catchers. Butera has played in just 28 games entering Wednesday night, when he was once again the Twins' starting catcher with Mauer still nursing a sore shoulder. But, Gardenhire said, Butera made the most of his time with the team even when he wasn't on the field.
"He's had enough time sitting on the bench earlier in the season to kind of figure out the league. He sat around and learned," Gardenhire said. "He didn't get in a lot of games in the first half, and now he's starting to get into some and doing more and more catching. It's a learning process. You just kind of have to go through it. He's had his ups and downs, too, calling ballgames, but he's getting better and better at it. I think he's paying attention."
Butera's hitting might leave a little something to be desired, as he is batting .200 with 80 at-bats under his belt in his rookie year and has drawn only two walks entering Wednesday. But he has shown flashes of his ability at the plate, like his 2-for-2, one-walk, one-homer outing Tuesday night against the Rays. He even executed a drag bunt, which brought out a smile -- and a joke -- from Gardenhire.
"He's in the big leagues," Gardenhire said. "That's all that matters. He hits a little. He was our best player last night, wasn't he? Walked two times and hit a homer, dropped a drag bunt, the whole package.
"He showed his fifth tool," Gardenhire added with a smile. "Drag bunting."