Joe Mauer could appear in a game next week

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Joe Mauer has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game, but he’s inching ever-closer to his debut after catching Nick Blackburn’s bullpen session earlier today.

According to La Velle Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Mauer said he hopes to appear as a designated hitter sometime after Tuesday’s scheduled off day.

“Yeah I’d like to,” he said. “Like I said, it was the first day. We have to see how we feel tomorrow and the next day, but if I’m feeling good then, yeah, I want to get in there.”

Mauer has been sidelined for the early part of the exhibition schedule following offseason surgery on his left knee. He has received three injections over the past few weeks in order to lubricate his knee joint. He’s hopeful that the series of treatments will allow him to handle the rigors behind the plate this season.

As for any recent concerns that he wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day, Mauer says it was “never in doubt.”

Mauer, who turns 28 in April, batted .327/.402/.469 with nine home runs, 75 RBI and an .871 OPS over 137 games last season. He’s about to enter the first year of an eight-year, $184 million contract.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.