ST. PETERSBURG -- Drew Butera has received rave reviews from his pitchers for his performance behind the plate lately.
Manager Ron Gardenhire explained the high praise, especially from Carl Pavano, as a result of Butera's defensive skills, the prime reason the catcher is seeing time in the Majors.
"He's giving them a low target. He's a catch-and-throw guy. That's what he does," Gardenhire said. "He's got soft hands and the whole package. That's kind of why we kept him up here, because we like the way he receives the ball. The pitchers feel good when they're throwing to him, too. That's why you keep him."
While experience might be the best way to learn for some, Gardenhire said Butera actually developed the most by sitting in the dugout and watching Joe Mauer and other big league catchers. Butera has played in just 28 games entering Wednesday night, when he was once again the Twins' starting catcher with Mauer still nursing a sore shoulder. But, Gardenhire said, Butera made the most of his time with the team even when he wasn't on the field.
"He's had enough time sitting on the bench earlier in the season to kind of figure out the league. He sat around and learned," Gardenhire said. "He didn't get in a lot of games in the first half, and now he's starting to get into some and doing more and more catching. It's a learning process. You just kind of have to go through it. He's had his ups and downs, too, calling ballgames, but he's getting better and better at it. I think he's paying attention."
Butera's hitting might leave a little something to be desired, as he is batting .200 with 80 at-bats under his belt in his rookie year and has drawn only two walks entering Wednesday. But he has shown flashes of his ability at the plate, like his 2-for-2, one-walk, one-homer outing Tuesday night against the Rays. He even executed a drag bunt, which brought out a smile -- and a joke -- from Gardenhire.
"He's in the big leagues," Gardenhire said. "That's all that matters. He hits a little. He was our best player last night, wasn't he? Walked two times and hit a homer, dropped a drag bunt, the whole package.
"He showed his fifth tool," Gardenhire added with a smile. "Drag bunting."
Mauer filling Twins' DH role for now
ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Mauer was back in the Twins' lineup as the designated hitter Wednesday night, and manager Ron Gardenhire said there was a "good possibility" Mauer won't return to his spot behind the plate Thursday as well.
Mauer, who sat out Sunday and Monday after a cortisone shot in his right shoulder, returned to the lineup Tuesday night and went 3-for-4 with three RBI singles. While his hitting showed no signs of slowing down due to the injection, Gardenhire thought it was best to give Mauer a few more days of not having to throw.
"He's just not going to catch. We're not going to mess with it," Gardenhire said. "We're just trying to alleviate it as much as we can."
The All-Star catcher is on a tear at the plate over his last six games entering Wednesday, batting .652 (15-for-23) with 13 RBIs. He played catch during batting practice Tuesday and did the same Wednesday. When asked after the game how it felt to throw, Mauer responded, "Like I hadn't thrown in a while.
"It's better than it was the couple days before. Hopefully, I'll get back in there soon."
With Drew Butera providing more-than-capable backup behind the plate, Gardenhire said he thought it might be best to continue to give Mauer's shoulder as much rest as possible, but he couldn't say for certain whether he would be the designated hitter for a third straight day.
"We'll have to wait and see for tomorrow," Gardenhire said. "The thought process is, as we go along here, to just maybe do that."
Plus, Gardenhire added, catching against the speedy Tampa Bay lineup is enough of a challenge for a healthy catcher.
"If it's not sore now, it might be after the game with the way these guys run," Gardenhire said.
Rauch leaves team with allergic reaction
ST. PETERSBURG -- Reliever Jon Rauch left Tropicana Field on Wednesday afternoon after meeting with team doctors and went back to the team hotel due to an allergic reaction.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said the allergic reaction manifested itself as a rash with blisters on his hands, and since that prevented Rauch from throwing, he left the team.
"There's a disease -- I don't know what it's called -- it's a rash that breaks into blisters," Gardenhire said. "We're calling it an allergic reaction."
Rauch first noticed the rash and blisters Tuesday night, but Gardenhire said he would have been available to pitch had the situation called for it.
"Last night, he was borderline. Tonight, he was not," Gardenhire said. "We actually have sent him to the doctors and then back to the hotel."
The right-handed reliever has 21 saves, a 2-1 record and a 2.97 ERA on the year. He was bumped to a setup role when the Twins acquired closer Matt Capps from the Nationals last week.
It is unknown how long the allergic reaction will keep Rauch off the mound, but Gardenhire hoped to have more information once he got a more complete, specific diagnosis from the team's doctors.
"Once we see a doctor, they can maybe give you a long terminology for it," Gardenhire said. "It probably ends in an 'itis.'"
Morneau, Hudson progressing
ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Ron Gardenhire said Justin Morneau was feeling "great" after a workout Wednesday afternoon, and Orlando Hudson was still not ready to hit left-handed on the field.
Morneau, out since July 7 with a concussion he sustained while sliding into second base against the Blue Jays, continued to work out back in the Twin Cities, putting together possibly his best back-to-back days since the injury -- an encouraging sign following a minor setback Sunday and a rough workout Monday.
"Yesterday was pretty good. Today was better. We'll see," Gardenhire said. "He had a nice workout today, worked up a little bit of a lather and everything went good. He's progressing. Again, a good day today."
Gardenhire strongly emphasized Morneau's status several times. When asked if there was a chance Morneau could return against the Indians or the White Sox, Gardenhire responded: "Day-to-day. Just day-to-day."
Hudson, meanwhile, was still hitting right-handed in batting practice and left-handed in the cage Wednesday. As Gardenhire announced Tuesday, Hudson will try to hit left-handed during early batting practice Friday in Cleveland. On the 15-day disabled list since July 24 with a right oblique strain, Hudson can return Sunday, but that might be complicated by a pregame event that will keep the Twins from holding batting practice Saturday.
"It's kind of rough because Saturday, I think they've got a big event going on there, so we don't get to take BP on the field Saturday," Gardenhire said. "That gives us a little bit of a rough edge.
"We'll see how he does."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.