It's the bottom of the 10th inning. The local lads have the winning run in scoring position and the team's third catcher in the on-deck circle. The team has two hobbled catchers on the bench who can hit a little. The manager is pacing. He wants to pinch hit for the journeyman catcher with 24 games of major league experience in his 11 years of professional baseball. But what if the pinch hitter gets hurt? In that worst-case scenario, the only option is to play the franchise player who's nursing a bad hammy and risk a more serious injury.
He decides to risk it. And in that at bat, on a 3-2 count, after several foul balls, the pinch hitter crumples to the ground. The finger he had dislocated and likely fractured months ago finally blew apart. No tape would hold it together. So the manager has no choice but to put the hobbled franchise catcher in to finish the at bat and catch the top of the next inning.
Of course, the team is the Twins, the manager is Ron Gardenhire, the journeyman is Chris Hientz, the catcher who had played for months with a broken finger is Mike Redmond. And the franchise catcher is Joe Mauer. And this is not just a Mighty Casey fictional story. This really happened. The question is, how can something like this happen?
In particular, how can a team carry two catchers who should be on the disabled list and a third with almost no major league experience? How could a team carry this complement of catchers in September, after rosters expand, when the best catcher at AAA--Jose Morales--is available for a call-up?
Perhaps the AAA team still needs him. Nope, the minor league season ended the day before.
Perhaps there is no room on the 40-man roster. Nope, there is a spot available.
Perhaps Morales is worn out or injured. Nope, at least he's much fresher and healthier than Redmond or Mauer.
Perhaps the team wants to save an option on him. Nope, September call-ups don't count against option years.
Perhaps the team wanted to save that spot for another player. Not likely. The Twins must protect Morales because he will be taken in the Rule V draft if the Twins fail to protect him this offseason. It would be a bigger loss than Rob Bowen, or Chad Moeller, or Damian Miller, or Javy Valentine, or any number of young catchers who got away, forcing the Twins to sign the likes of Chris Heintz. So they might as well protect him now.
Perhaps the cost--$67,000 plus one month of service time--is too great, and the team would rather risk serious injury to its starting and back-up catcher than pay it. That seems absurd. No team would do that, right?
You be the judge. If you can give me a better answer as to why Jose Morales was not available to catch in the 10th inning on Tuesday, September 4 at the Metrodome, my mind will be more at ease. Because I don't want to believe that this organization would risk losing its franchise player to a serious injury over $67,000.