CLEVELAND -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire used to cringe every time that he had to put both of his catchers in the lineup together last season. It was a situation he didn't particularly like, but felt was necessary due to the team's lack of designated hitter options. The moves the team made this offseason to beef up the DH spot made it appear that wouldn't have to occur again. Yet, there were both of his catchers back in the lineup for Tuesday's series opener against the Indians. Joe Mauer got the nod behind the plate and Mike Redmond was slotted into the DH role.
Gardenhire acknowledged that it was a gamble, but it's not the only one he's had to take recently. And he seemed willing to try anything to get his team jumpstarted following a four-game sweep in Chicago where his team was outscored, 40-15. "I'm gambling playing with 12 players," the skipper said. "It's not something you like to do [running both catchers out there], but we've done it before." Redmond's career numbers off left-hander C.C. Sabathia had a little something to do with the decision. The catcher has hit .522 (12-for-23) off the reigning 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner. "I think those numbers scream to put him in there somewhere and I don't want to take Joe out of the lineup," Gardenhire said. Redmond has also turned things around at the plate recently after he got off to a slow start this season, batting just .154 through May 19. But at that time, the backup catcher had tallied only 26 at-bats, due to a schedule filled with off-days so the team had opportunities to rest Mauer. Since he's started to get back in the lineup more often during the Twins' current stretch of 40 games in 41 days, Redmond has raised his average to .310 by going 9-for-16 in his last five games. It's a result that he credits to getting more consistent playing time. "I don't know too many guys that can have 20 at-bats in six weeks and have a whole lot of success and feel good," Redmond said. "For me, it's just feeling comfortable. But in saying that, I understand my role and I totally get why I had 20 at-bats. Joe is healthy and feeling good and I'd do the same thing -- run him out there as much as possible. "But, as a player and a competitor, when I get a chance to play, I want to contribute. Redmond has shown a knack for doing just that when he's in the lineup, as he did on Tuesday by tallying a hit off Sabathia in his first at-bat. And Gardenhire said that he isn't surprised anymore by seeing Redmond continually get hits after not playing for awhile. "He keeps hitting pretty simple," Gardenhire said. "The one thing he knows is how to get the barrel on the ball and make good contact. He's been doing it for a long time and he knows how to prepare himself when he walks in there." Redmond admits that consistent playing time has been a bigger factor this season due to the left middle finger he injured last season. The finger is fully healthy now, but when he was trying to play through the injury late last season, Redmond adjusted his grip on the bat to do so. And he said that it took him longer than usual during Spring Training to get a feel for his swing due to the changes he had made. "I just couldn't get comfortable because I had adjusted it so much," Redmond said. "Hitters work on feel and I couldn't get that feel in my swing. I was constantly adjusting my lower hand on the bat because of my finger last year. So it took awhile for me to find that slot again where it felt comfortable. But, within the last couple weeks, getting a chance to play more has helped me to get it back."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.