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.

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.