Tonight, Pavano is starting for the Twins in the Bronx. As always, it will be tough to eke out a win against the Yankees. It will be even more difficult, however, if Pavano's "personal catcher," Drew Butera, starts tonight.
I generally have no problem with an ace pitcher requesting a certain catcher. If it makes them more comfortable, and helps them to pitch better, then so be it. But Pavano really isn't an ace pitcher. To be sure, he is an above-average, veteran MLB pitcher who has played very well for Minnesota, and who chose to come back to the Twins when he could have had other offers. But it is a stretch to describe Pavano, holder of a career 4.37 ERA, as an ace.
Drew Butera is a very good defensive catcher, and a horrible hitter. Now, we all know that Joe Mauer will need days off to keep his legs and knees in playing condition, so it makes sense to have a reliable back-up backstop on the team. And Butera nicely fills that role on the defensive side, which is his primary function. But to suggest that, regardless of the day, the schedule, and the pitching match-up, Mauer will not catch when Pavano pitches, is ridiculous. Tonight, old foe Freddy Garcia will be taking the hill for the Yankees. In a pretty decent sample size, it is evident that Mauer has had excellent success against Garcia, batting .419 (13 for 31), with 2 HRs. It appears that Butera has never faced Garcia, but I would take my chances with Mauer any day against Garcia.
Finally, although it's only the first week in April, this is an important game for the Twins. If Pavano can keep us in the game, the fact that this team has had proven success against Garcia, and is coming off a "surprise" win in NY, bodes well for their chances tonight. To give the Twins the best chance, Mauer should be catching and batting third. Let him, if necessary, take tomorrow off: Thursday is a day game after a night game, anyway, so that makes more sense to me.