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Pinto adjusting to game, culture just fine

MINNEAPOLIS -- Every day in the big leagues has been a learning experience for Twins catcher Josmil Pinto.

Pinto, who was recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 31, has made the most of it, especially offensively, hitting .338 with three homers, five doubles and 10 RBIs in his first 18 games entering Wednesday's game against the Tigers.

The Valencia, Venezuela, native has come up big in clutch situations, as he hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning against the Rays on Sept. 15 to lead the Twins to a 6-4 win, and Pinto also had a walk-off single on Monday in a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. His go-ahead homer against the Rays came on the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15, and is celebrated throughout Major League Baseball.

Pinto's play impressed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, as Pinto could be the catcher of the future for the club, especially if the Twins decide to use Joe Mauer less behind the plate moving forward after he saw his season end because of a concussion sustained on a foul tip while catching on Aug. 19.

"He's a strong young man, and he's got a short swing," Gardenhire said. "He knows how to defend the plate a little bit, and that short swing really helps him. You saw it [Monday] night. He got himself in a little bit of a hole, but he took a nice, short swing, didn't try to do too much with it and shot it the other way. That's kind of ahead of your time. You don't see many young hitters being able to do those things. He's been able to do that stuff. It's been fun to watch."

But defensively, he's been more of a work in progress, still working on his receiving skills such as pitch framing -- he often moves with the pitch instead of just moving the glove -- and pitch calling.

"He's not exactly a polished product," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "But his game selection on his pitches and his blocking and shifting are pretty good. This guy has agility, good feet and plenty arm strength. So now, it's just about him getting educated on who he's catching, game situations, the speed of the game and all that good stuff. He has some work to do, but he's a guy you can work with because he's a good student."

Gardenhire has also been impressed with his work ethic, as Pinto is in constant communication with bench coach and former big league catcher Terry Steinbach before, during and after games.

"Obviously, he's doing fine," Gardenhire said. "He has things to learn. Steiny is right there with him every step of the way. He talks to him between innings about situations and things. He's anxious to learn and do it right. And that's the good thing about having Terry Steinbach as one of our coaches."

Pinto, 24, is also trying to improve his English, working to get better at communicating with the pitchers and his coaches. He's able to do some basic interviews with reporters in English, but he prefers to use a translator -- for now. But it's another thing he'll work to improve on this offseason, as he's set to head back to his native Venezuela to play winter ball.

"The only thing I've really ever tried to do is learn every day the things people taught me and go out and play the game hard," Pinto said through translator and Twins first baseman Chris Colabello. "Those are the things I can control."

Gardenhire said this month has been key for Pinto, as he's been getting constant playing time with Mauer out for the season with a concussion.

"We think he has the chance to be an everyday catcher," Gardenhire said about Pinto. "With Joe-Joe out, this is an opportunity for him to get playing time. Hopefully, he continues to take advantage of it."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
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