There’s still no timetable for Joe Mauer’s return from the leg problems traced back to offseason knee surgery, but manager Ron Gardenhire reiterated yesterday that whenever Mauer does come off the disabled list it will be as the Twins’ catcher.
Ever since Mauer suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in 2004 a certain segment of Twins fans have clamored for a position switch and his latest injury has dramatically increased the number of people who think he’d better off not catching, but so far at least none of the Twins’ decision-makers seem to agree. Here’s Gardenhire:
He signed an eight-year deal to catch in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins. So we’re trying to get him back as a catcher. If it doesn’t work out when he comes back, then we’re going to have to figure somewhere else. And that’s a lot harder than everybody makes it out to be, because we have some corner people that are pretty good baseball players.
He could play anywhere. He played the infield as a young player. We can make him the tallest shortstop since Cal Ripken. Right now, he’s a catcher, and that’s where he’s going to be until Joe says, “I can’t do it anymore,” or we deem him not physically able to do that. But we believe he is. He just needs to get healthy.
Mauer has repeatedly made it very clear that he intends to remain a catcher long term, but in the short term his stay on the disabled list will be longer because he needs to be game-ready on both sides of the ball and right now he’s been limited to designated hitter duties at extended spring training.
I’ve always felt very strongly that Mauer should remain behind the plate, because as a catcher his bat is Hall of Fame-caliber but as a first baseman or corner outfielder his bat is “only” All-Star-caliber. With that said, obviously an All-Star in the lineup is better than a Hall of Famer on the disabled list, and at some point the injuries may simply force the Twins’ hand. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, though.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.