|Injured Mauer still Minnesota's catcher, for now|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 03 September 2007 14:02|
There's no target for his return, but when he does come back he will still be behind the plate.
Mauer and the Twins were worked up on Monday after both local newspapers published columns calling for Mauer to be moved to third base.
``Fill one big gaping hole at third base? Let's just make another gaping hole behind the plate? Tell me which one's more important,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Mauer, the only AL catcher to win a batting title, was hurt on Aug. 25. Earlier this season, he missed more than a month because of a strained left quadriceps. In 2004, his rookie year, Mauer tore the mensiscus cartilage in his left knee and was limited to 35 games.
But the usually emotionless 24-year-old was upset about insinuation that he is unable to play with pain. He also downplayed the effect catching has had on his health. The knee injury was the result of a sliding attempt at catching a foul ball. The hamstring was hurt while running the bases.
``I don't usually read the paper, but when people start writing things about questioning reputations and stuff like that when they don't know what's going on in the clubhouse - that's what kind of fired me up a little bit,'' Mauer said. ``The guys in here know that I play hard and I play hurt and play through some things. ... If I need to switch positions, hopefully that's later on down the road. But I want to be a catcher as long as I can.''
Many players have moved from the game's most dangerous position and enjoyed longer careers and greater offensive success at other spots. But Mauer was an All-Star in 2006 for more than just his hitting. He has a strong arm, plays good defense and has normally handled the pitching staff well.
``You tell me you can go find me another catcher who can do what Joe Mauer can do, or close. I'll tell you you're wrong,'' Gardenhire said. ``He ain't out there.''
Backup Mike Redmond is a clubhouse favorite who has frequently played well when Mauer is out, but he's 36. Usually one of the most gregarious players on the team, Redmond shook his head and walked away when asked about the situation.
``I'm not going to talk about Joe Mauer,'' he said.
Mauer jogged around the bases and took some swings before Monday's game, and he said he ``felt pretty good.'' Shutting himself down for the season, even with the Twins 10 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the division race, is not an option.
``I just want to get back in the lineup as soon as I can and help the team out,'' he said.
The Twins have talked about using Mauer at other places to give him a break or two each week from the rigors of catching, but they're not ready to make a permanent switch.
``If it's deemed he can't play catcher, then obviously we'll find another position for him,'' Gardenhire said. ``But you're talking about an all-star catcher. This guy's pretty good. He can control a baseball game. He can stop a running game. He can do things you're not going to find anywhere else.''
Mauer said he might change his offseason training program with the hope of preventing further injuries. He's not, however, about to accept any criticism of his toughness.
``I guess it's an opinion, but that's just not true,'' he said.