Minor League Report: Drew Butera
Catcher played with three arms Twins received for Santana
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For the majority of the Twins coaching staff, very little is known about the three pitchers that the club received from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade.But if they have any questions, there is one person currently in Spring Training with the Twins who knows them a little better than most -- catcher Drew Butera. One of two prospects acquired from the Mets in the Luis Castillo trade last July, Butera has spent time with all three pitchers -- Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. He even caught two of them for a significant period of time last season. "It makes the transition easier for me," Butera said of seeing so many familiar faces so far this spring. "It's nice now to see guys that I played with or guys that I know." As for the 25-year-old Humber, who likely has the best chance of the three for making the rotation, he's the pitcher that Butera has caught the least. Having only been privy to catching Humber in a few bullpen sessions, Butera said he didn't know very much about Humber's stuff. But he said it didn't take Humber long to leave an impression. "The first day I caught him, I was like, 'Wow, this kid is going to be something special,'" Butera said. "He's kind of a power guy, throws hard, max effort. He has a hard curveball, but that's about all I know since I've only caught his bullpens." The other two pitchers are much more familiar to Butera. Butera was Mulvey's teammate for the second half of the '07 season at Double-A Binghamton. He said that the 23-year-old right-hander is one of those ideal pitchers for any catcher to work with due to the type of pitch selection he possesses. "He's got four-plus pitches, which makes it tough to hit off him," Butera said. "He throws around 91, 92 [mph] but he has good control, which I think is his key. You know that whenever he's on the mound, whether he has it that day or not, he's going to have a chance to win." Of the three pitchers, Guerra is considered to be the one with the most upside. The right-hander, who doesn't turn 19 until April, pitched last season for the Mets' Class A St. Lucie club in the Florida State League. Butera said that his 95-mph fastball is what immediately draws most attention, but he possesses much more than just that. "He has a really dominating changeup, too, and when he learns the consistency of the curveball, he's going to be unhittable," Butera said. "It's like in the back pocket, just waiting to come out. There were flashes last year where guys were just baffled, like this guy should not be in Class A. When he's on it's like Mulvey, it makes my job really easy."
Taking accountability: The Twins did not have any players on their Major League roster named in the Mitchell Report, but there is one non-roster invitee who was included.Infielder Howie Clark, who has spent the majority of his 16-year professional career as a fringe Major Leaguer, was included in the Report for obtaining human growth hormone from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski. The Report stated: "Radomski said that Clark called him several times before buying anything. Radomski recalled that Clark had done his own research about human growth hormone and had decided to use it. Radomski said that he made four or five sales of human growth hormone to Clark." The Twins signed Clark on Nov. 22, a few weeks before the Mitchell Report was released. But manager Ron Gardenhire said he was unaware of the situation until he met Clark this week and the infielder promptly informed him of it. Gardenhire said Clark told him he made a mistake in 2005 when he took HGH, and that he was not sure if he would be punished for it by the Commissioner's Office. He offered to step up in front of the team and tell them about the situation, but Gardenhire told him he didn't feel it was necessary. "He told me he screwed up, and I said that's good enough for me," Gardenhire said. "He's sorry about it, and we'll go from there. He was honest with me and up-front, told me right away. And I appreciated that." Welcome back home? While Butera has enjoyed a few friendly faces from the Mets organization during his first week of big league camp, he's also gained a reputation around the clubhouse for another reason. Butera's received some chiding from the Twins coaches and clubhouse staff due to the fact that he's the son of former Twins catcher, Sal Butera, who spent parts of four seasons with the organization (1980-82, 1987). While the 24-year-old Butera was a little too young to really remember his dad's time with the Twins, he said he's heard quite a few stories about Sal's playing days over the first few days of camp. Most of those stories are being told to him by longtime Twins clubhouse attendant Wayne Hattaway. "All these years he's been ragging on me, some friendly competition," Butera said of his dad. "It's nice to hear all the stories that he didn't tell me back in the day, you know. I always heard the good stuff. When I was down, he would throw a story about something bad he did, but it's always nice to hear the funny and goofy stuff that he did. That was never brought up. I get to call him at night now and be like, 'Hey, I know what you really did as a player.'" They're No. 1: Left-hander Glen Perkins, who was a first-round pick of the Twins in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, spent the start of the '07 season as a member of the club's bullpen. But his role with the team this year has yet to be decided. The Twins are preparing to use Perkins as a starter this spring due in part to the limited number of innings he pitched last season. Perkins threw just a total of 28 2/3 innings with the big league club after straining a muscle behind his left shoulder in late May. "That concerns me," Gardenhire said of the limited time on the mound. "The one thing we talked about this year is trying to get his innings in and trying to get him pitching more. And so he'll first be in the mix for the starting rotation. If it looks like his best position is out of the bullpen, we'll do that, too. But our goal is to get him going with everybody else and see where he fits." What they're saying: "There are things in my game that can get better. I'm not a complete player. I'm nowhere near my full potential. But I feel like I've done enough to get an opportunity." -- Denard Span, who was the Twins' first-round Draft pick in 2002, and is one of three players competing for the club's opening in center field.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.