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.