Joe Mauer forced to play right field for short-handed Twins

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Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, and Matt Tolbert are injured, Jason Kubel is away from the team for a family emergency, and call-up Luke Hughes missed his flight to Target Field, so manager Ron Gardenhire had to improvise tonight’s Twins lineup and the result is Joe Mauer making his professional debut in right field.

Prior to this season Mauer had never played anywhere but catcher and designated hitter, but he’s been seeing significant action at first base since returning from the disabled list and will now give the outfield a try. And unless Hughes shows up during the game, Minnesota will face the Yankees with zero healthy players on the bench.

While far from a speedster, Mauer has the athleticism to potentially be an asset defensively in right field and his arm will certainly come in handy if any runners try to take an extra base. For now the Twins have said that Mauer remains in their plans primarily as a catcher, but third base and right field are potentially intriguing destinations if they decide to move the former MVP out from behind the plate more often in 2012.

Masahiro Tanaka throws two-hit shutout vs. Rays

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka went the distance, holding the Rays scoreless on two hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts across nine innings on Monday night in the Bronx. It’s the fourth shutout of his career, accounting for four of the Yankees’ last six shutouts. The other two were thrown my Luis Severino and Brandon McCarthy.

DJ LeMahieu provided the bulk of the offense, swatting a two-run home run off of Yonny Chirinos in the third inning. Cameron Maybin tacked on a solo homer off of Chirinos in the fifth as the Yankees went on to win 3-0.

After Monday’s performance, Tanaka owns a 3.23 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 20 walks across 92 innings on the season.

With the win, the Yankees increase their lead over the Rays for first place in the AL East to 1.5 games.