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Plans for Pinto up in air

Josmil Pinto was one of the few Minnesota Twins to show some promise last season, but his role in 2014 is still up in the air. USA Today Sports Photo

The Minnesota Twins are not quite sure what to do with rookie catcher Josmil Pinto.

Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki was signed as a free agent over the winter after the Twins announced six-time All-Star catcher Joe Mauer would move to first base. Suzuki will get a significant amount of paying time.

The question now is whether the Twins can also find enough starts behind the plate for Pinto. If not, then the 24-year-old will be optioned to Triple-A Rochester, where he will continue his development.

“I don’t have a problem with him splitting time with Suzuki. That could be part of his development,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Learning process, catch some on the side. Match him with certain pitchers that look good when they work together. He can develop that way, too. He doesn’t have to be an everyday guy, I wouldn’t put it like that.”

Pinto showed well offensively last September when he was called up to the major leagues for the first time and batted .342 with four home runs in 21 games. He had gone 5-for-11 (.455) with a double this spring through games as of March 14.

However, Pinto is not as strong defensively and that could lead to the Twins keeping Eric Fryer or Chris Herrmann as the backup catcher.

“The second catcher we’ll discuss as we go along,” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “I don’t think we’ve finalized it. We all have different thoughts and opinions on that. We’ll sit down and figure that out at the end.”

The Twins are looking for a right-handed hitter with power to balance a lefty-leaning lineup but Gardenhire said Pinto is not in the running for at-bats as the designated hitter.

“I’m not looking for a DH candidate in a catcher, I’ve already been (on) that route,” Gardenhire said, referring to Ryan Doumit, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. “I need two catchers. If I have that then I’m going to need three catchers and I don’t want to do that.”