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.

Your latest National League All-Star voting update

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Not much has changed with the All-Star voting in the National League this week. All of the same leaders from last week are leading this week. Matt Kemp and Bryce Harper have flip-flopped at 2-3 in the outfield voting but it’s still all the same.

Buster Posey leads at catcher, first base is Freddie Freeman, second is his Braves teammate Ozzie Albies, third is Nolan Arenado, short is Brandon Crawford and Nick Markakis leads the outfield trio.

Your current leaders and their closest pursuers: