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Gardenhire would like to keep Morales

Gardenhire would like to keep Morales

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows that keeping three catchers on his Major League roster would be difficult due to the fact the club is carrying 12 pitchers and, therefore, only has four bench players. But Gardenhire also said Monday that "it's not impossible."

With Joe Mauer on schedule to return from the disabled list on Friday, catcher Jose Morales likely could be the player sent down to Triple-A Rochester to make room for him.

It's something Gardenhire would prefer not to see happen, based on the way Morales has been swinging the bat lately.

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"I'm not sending him down anywhere right now," Gardenhire said when asked about Morales possibly going back to Rochester. "He's going to catch all three games of this series [against the Rays], and then we'll see where he's at when Joe Mauer comes back up here."

A scenario in which the Twins keep three catchers seems quite unlikely, but Morales has been making a strong case for himself recently -- both at the plate and behind it. On Sunday, he went 4-for-4 against the Indians, to raise his batting average to .375, and became the first Twins catcher to throw out an opposing baserunner. Morales and fellow catcher Mike Redmond previously had been unsuccessful in 18 tries.

The Minnesota coaching staff believed Morales' inability to throw out runners was based on some sloppiness behind the plate that he developed while battling through an ankle injury last season. The feeling was Morales was not using his legs enough in his throws, so bench coach Steve Liddle spent time working with the catcher on his form before many home games.

"The first couple games I was struggling a bit," Morales said of his throws from behind the plate. "I've been working really hard with Steve at home. It was great to get that first one of out of the way and get some confidence, definitely."

Those throws will be particularly important during this series against Tampa Bay. The Rays lead the Major Leagues in stolen bases this season with 24, and they've only been caught three times.

"That's their M.O., they run," Gardenhire said. "It's going to be more up to our pitchers than anything else. They have to give us the opportunity to throw the ball. If they get the ball home quick enough to Jose, it'll be fine. But they are a very good baserunning team, and they'll put the pressure on you."

While it's unclear how much longer he'll be in the big leagues, Morales' focus this week will be on shutting down the Rays' running game and dealing with the Twins' pitching staff.

This past weekend, Morales was asked about the strange position he's in -- hitting so well in the Majors yet facing the likely scenario that he's headed back to Rochester when Mauer returns.

"I definitely understand that I've got a lot to learn," Morales said. "You're talking about Joe Mauer, the best catcher in baseball. That's out of my hands. I can just control going out there and doing the best I can. The rest takes care of itself."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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