Joe Mauer won’t be catching in the early part of spring training

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Joe Mauer received a shot of medicine earlier today to help lubricate his left knee joint, according to Kelly Theisier of MLB.com. Of course, Mauer underwent minor surgery in December to take care of some lingering inflammation in the very same knee.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said today that he plans to take it easy with his star catcher in the early part of spring training.

“I want to make sure those things take effect,” Gardenhire said of the shot. “He’s feeling a lot better. You can see him moving and feeling great and we want to keep it that way. So we’re going to kind of guard him and back him off, and we’ll eventually get him in the ballgames, too.”

“I’m not thinking that he’s going to be catching in the games right away, either,” said Gardenhire. “I’m just going to bide my time with that and make sure we get him in situations and get him ready. It’s more important for him to see the pitchers on the side, a few bullpens on the side, but I want to make sure we clean that knee up before we get anything going.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be alarmed quite yet, but the long-term health of Mauer’s knee is obviously of critical importance given the rigors of the catcher position. The 27-year-old has started 105 and 107 games behind the dish in the past two seasons and I’d honestly be surprised if that number will increase as he gets up there in age.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.