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.
Here are the Rangers and Blue Jays lineups for Game 1 of the ALDS in Toronto:
CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mike Napoli
LF Josh Hamilton
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos
SP Yovani Gallardo
With left-hander David Price on the mound for Toronto the Rangers are going with Mike Napoli at first base over Mitch Moreland. Beyond that it’s a pretty standard lineup for Texas, or at least standard for what manager Jeff Banister used down the stretch once Josh Hamilton was healthy enough to play left field.
LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Smoak
C Russell Martin
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar
SP David Price
After returning from the disabled list for the final weekend of the regular season Troy Tulowitzki is in the lineup and batting fifth. That allows Ryan Goins to play second base in place of the injured Devon Travis. Justin Smoak gets the nod over Chris Colabello at first base against a right-hander.
Houston made one unexpected change to the roster for the ALDS, leaving off veteran reliever Chad Qualls.
Qualls warmed up but never appeared in the Wild Card game win over the Yankees and during the regular season the 36-year-old right-hander logged 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio. Qualls was on the Astros’ last playoff team in 2005.
Utility man Jonathan Villar has been bumped off the roster in favor of outfielder Preston Tucker, as the Astros opted for a good left-handed bat off the bench versus the Royals rather than Villar’s speed.