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Twins likely to use Pavano-Butera combo

After rainout in NYC, no word on whether Mauer will catch Friday

By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 6:00 PM CT

Joe Mauer NEW YORK -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer was scheduled to sit out Wednesday night's game against the Yankees, but it ended up being postponed due to rain anyway.

Mauer, who also had the day off on Saturday in Toronto, is expected to return to the lineup on Thursday when left-hander Francisco Liriano takes the mound against the Yankees.

But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wouldn't confirm whether Mauer will be in the lineup in the home opener at Target Field on Friday against the A's, as Gardenhire announced before Wednesday's game was postponed that Drew Butera is expected to serve as Carl Pavano's personal backstop this season.

Mauer, though, could still catch Pavano as he did on Opening Day, when the right-hander struggled against the Blue Jays, allowing seven earned runs over four innings, including three home runs.

Despite Friday's rocky outing, Mauer and Pavano actually worked together just fine last year, with the righty carrying a 3.79 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.40 in 17 outings over 106 innings with Mauer behind the plate. It simply wasn't much different from the 3.65 ERA and 3.05 strikeout-to-walk ratio Pavano posted in 15 starts over 105 innings with Butera at catcher.

"Those are decisions that Gardy and [pitching coach Rick Anderson] make," said Pavano, when asked his preference. "I just know my days to pitch and that I'll always be ready to pitch. I think last year, it just so happened I had some great success with Drew, but I also had success with Joe, so we'll see how it falls this year."

Butera, however, did throw out six of 19 attempted basestealers last year when Pavano was on the mound, while Mauer threw out just two of 20 runners. "Butera and Pavano is going to be our combo going along," Gardenhire said before the rainout. "I know Pavano likes a low target and all those things. So it's a good day for Joe because he caught a lot of innings last night, and so it was a good day for that anyways. But like we did last year, it's just a good combo."

Gardenhire also said the Pavano-Butera combination will help give Mauer a regular schedule of off-days, as he's coming off surgery on his left knee over the offseason. He also added Mauer won't serve as designated hitter when he's not behind the plate, as he's trying to save his knees and doesn't want him hitting and running around the bases on his off-days.

"I'm like everybody else, I'd love to have Mauer playing all the time," Gardenhire said. "I'm no different than any fan sitting out there on their rocking chair or armchair, saying they want Mauer in the lineup. Believe me, I like that too. But catchers need rest, and so we need to make sure we give him one a week when Pavano is pitching."