LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire often used to joke about how much easier his job was having perennial All-Star Joe Mauer behind the plate.
But now he doesn't have that luxury with Mauer moving to first base next season after sustaining a season-ending concussion on a foul tip while catching on Aug. 19. So Gardenhire said the Twins are looking at their options with Josmil Pinto, Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann and Eric Fryer as the catchers on the 40-man roster.
Pinto, who hit .342 with four homers and five doubles in 21 games in September last year, remains the most likely replacement for Mauer, but the club could still look to options outside the organization.
"You're taking an All Star out from behind the plate," Gardenhire said. "I liked Pinto when he came up, but he only played a month. I like the way he swung the bat. I liked his aggressiveness and the way he attacked. But he has a lot of things to learn about calling a ballgame and handling pitchers and working with a lot of different pitchers."
Twins general manager Terry Ryan confirmed he had interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia before he signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins. And A.J. Pierzynski confirmed to reporters at the Winter Meetings that he was offered a two-year deal by the Twins, but opted to sign with the Red Sox on a one-year deal because it gave him a better chance of winning a World Series.
But the free-agent market for catchers has dried up, according to Ryan, and it appears they would have to trade for a backstop if they don't turn to Pinto. So it seems more likely Pinto will get the chance to be the club's everyday starter with Mauer available to help mentor him.
"As far as knowing the hitters, Joe knows them," Gardenhire said. "He'll be able to help us out a lot of times with how we pitch people and all those things. So he'll be a good influence. His mind will be there to pick."
Twins remain interested in bringing Pelfrey back
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Twins remain interested in bringing back right-hander Mike Pelfrey and have made him a contract offer, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said on Tuesday at the Winter meetings.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan wouldn't confirm the club has made Pelfrey an offer, but did say he remains in contact with Pelfrey's agent, Scott Boras. The Twins reportedly offered Pelfrey a two-year deal worth $10 million.
"We're still in dialogue with Mike," said Ryan, who rarely comments about current free agents.
But Gardenhire had more to say about Pelfrey, who had a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts with the Twins last season. The right-hander, who was coming off Tommy John surgery, struck out 101, walked 53 and gave up 13 homers in 152 2/3 innings.
"We have a lot of respect for Pelfrey," Gardenhire said. "We're talking with him and working with him. We've basically made some offers and talked. It's a decision whether he wants to take it or go elsewhere. I love the guy. He's good for the clubhouse. He came a long ways last year off his surgery. So now we'll just see, I'm stepping back to see if it works out."
Pelfrey had an unsightly 5.19 ERA last season, but Gardenhire saw promise in Pelfrey, especially considering he came back from Tommy John surgery so quickly. Pelfrey was much better in the second half of the season with a 3.25 ERA in five June starts and a 3.60 ERA in six August starts but faltered in September with a 7.45 ERA in four outings.
Advanced metrics such as Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which measures what a player's ERA should have looked like based on strikeouts, walks and homers allowed, also painted a rosier picture of Pelfrey. He had a 3.99 FIP, as he still had strong peripheral stats and was hurt by a .337 batting average on balls on play (BABIP). The league average BABIP is roughly .300.
"We went through this process, now we'd like to see the benefits and fruits of it going forward," Gardenhire said. "So hopefully it works out and he comes back. We like the young man an awful lot, and he can help us win baseball games."
Sano remains shut down, to have elbow examined
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Top prospect Miguel Sano is expected to have his right elbow re-examined this month, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said.
Sano, ranked as baseball's No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, remains shut down after sustaining a strained ulnar collateral ligament while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic in mid-October.
Ryan, who wouldn't pin a specific date for Sano to be checked out, said it's too early to rule out elbow surgery.
"I don't have any thoughts one way or another quite yet," Ryan said. "It's too early for me. I'm not hiding or skating. I just haven't got enough information to tell you exactly where he's at, but I should in the near future."
Ryan had better news on right-hander Samuel Deduno, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder on Sept. 18. Deduno, who is expected to be a part of the rotation next year, is throwing at the club's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
"He's making strides to where it shouldn't be an issue when we report in February," Ryan said. "He's doing fine."