MINNEAPOLIS -- From his infamous naked walk inside the Twins' clubhouse to the "Smell 'em" phrase he coined in reference to RBIs, backup catcher Mike Redmond has been one of Minnesota's more colorful team leaders over the past five seasons. Redmond's humorous personality and the grittiness he's shown in his limited time on the field have endured the veteran catcher to not only his teammates but also to Twins fans. But as the 2010 season approaches, Redmond's future is uncertain. He is eligible for free agency this winter, and following a season of diminished production by the 38-year-old catcher, it's unclear whether he fits into Minnesota's plans going forward.
Yet Redmond, who has been in the big leagues since 1998, made it clear he isn't ready to hang up his spikes just yet. "I'm definitely planning on playing next year," Redmond said after the Twins were swept by the Yankees in the American League Division Series. "For some reason, I think people think I'm going to retire. I still feel like I've got a lot of fight left in me, a lot of energy left to play. I don't know if it will be here. But if not, I plan on being somewhere." Redmond is realistic about the possibility that he may have to continue his career somewhere other than Minnesota. While Redmond's leadership, experience and his ability to work with young pitchers is a definite plus, the Twins have another backup catching option in Jose Morales, who at age 26 proved this season that he can definitely hit at the Major League level. It didn't help that things didn't go exactly as Redmond had envisioned at the start of the season, either. With All-Star catcher Joe Mauer out the entire first month of the season due to lower back inflammation, it appeared like Redmond would have an opportunity for more playing time. But injuries -- a groin strain and a sore shoulder -- prevented Redmond from filling in every day, and he split time with Morales behind the plate during the month of April. Redmond also endured some struggles when he was on the field. He batted a career-low .237 with two doubles, seven RBIs and a .588 OPS in 135 at-bats. He also threw out only five of 40 runners while behind the plate. "This year has been a tough year," Redmond said. "It's been a grind. I had a couple injuries early in the season, when I was so excited to get an opportunity to play. It just hasn't worked out like I anticipated it to work out, but that's the way it goes. I still love to play, I still love to compete, and as long as I still have that feeling, I'm going to keep going. " At 38, Redmond acknowledges that his playing career is nearing toward its end, but his goal has been to play at least until he's 40. He hopes to still reach that goal. "I haven't put a set number of years on how much longer, but I'd like to play a couple more seasons," Redmond said. "As long as I'm still enjoying it, I want to keep doing it. I hope it's here in Minnesota, but that's up to them." Redmond has been well aware of his impending free agency throughout the season and that it might mean the end of his time with the Twins. During the club's tremendous run at the end of the regular season to earn another American League Central title and its short postseason series with the Yankees, Redmond said he made sure to take it all in and often found himself reflecting on his time in the Twin Cities. "It's been five unbelievable years," Redmond said. "But you have to, I guess, kind of anticipate the unknown. I think I've always been able to put that in perspective, and the fans have always been so great and have really appreciated me and what I bring to the game. So I want to tell them thanks for being in my corner and supporting me and my team." After the Twins had played their final game in the Metrodome in that loss in Game 3 of the ALDS, Redmond stood in the clubhouse with his 7-year-old son Michael Jr. hugging his leg and questioning whether it might have been his last game in a Twins uniform, too. "I hope it isn't," Redmond said. "But it was a heck of a ride if it was. Everybody knows how much I love it here. I had a lot of fun and we had a lot of exciting times. I've had a lot of fun with these guys, and that's what it's all about."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.