SEATTLE -- With Twins catcher Joe Mauer seeing more time in the designated hitter spot on days when he's not behind the plate this season, manager Ron Gardenhire has said that the ideal situation would be for the club to add a third catcher to the roster.
But while the skipper hinted this past week that perhaps such a move could occur, Gardenhire said on Sunday that it's an unlikely scenario because it would mean moving from a 12-man pitching staff to just 11 pitchers.
"That's hard," Gardenhire said of the move. "If you could go back to one less pitcher in the bullpen, then it would probably be feasible. But with the way we've got guys beat up a little bit like [Michael] Cuddyer with his finger ... and [Joe] Crede and his legs, I've got to have the position players to protect myself. I think that would be really nice to have that third catcher, but I would have to do something with my pitching staff to be able to do that."
Mauer was back behind the plate in Sunday's finale against the Mariners. The Twins lost, 4-2.
It's been difficult for Gardenhire to take Mauer's bat out of the lineup, based on the way he's been swinging since returning from the disabled list on May 1. So, the solution has been to give Mauer a few more DH days instead of a complete day off when he's not catching.
With only two catchers currently on the Twins roster, it creates an interesting dilemma when both of them play in case an injury should occur or the team wants to make a move late in the game for a pinch-runner or a pinch-hitter.
Such was the case on Saturday when both Mauer and Mike Redmond were in the lineup together with Mauer as the DH. Trailing by one run in the ninth, Gardenhire pinch-ran for Redmond after he drew a one-out walk. It meant that Mauer would have shifted behind the plate and the Twins would have lost the DH had they been able to tie the game and go into extra innings.
The Twins were able to avoid that situation during one stretch last month when they had three catchers on the roster. While Delmon Young was on the family medical emergency list, Jose Morales was called up from Triple-A Rochester to fill in the roster spot and it provided Gardenhire with a little more flexibility on days when Mauer was the DH.
"I really liked having that," Gardenhire said.
The Twins starting staff has been pitching deeper into games of late, so Gardenhire was asked if it would possibly make it easier to go back to 11 pitchers. But Gardenhire said that it's still not an ideal time to think about giving up one of his relievers.
"We're at this [number] out of necessity," Gardenhire said of a 12-man pitching staff. "I think we need this right now. We went through a stretch of 20 in a row, a day off and then 10 in a row. So it's essential to have all of them out of the bullpen. Now if our starters keep going like this, then maybe we could go back [to 11 pitchers]...But it's rare to see a team with five players on the bench anymore."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.