Turns out, the foul ball that Ike Davis hit on Aug. 19 was enough to end Joe Mauer’s season. But it wasn’t enough, the former American League MVP vowed Monday, to finish him as a catcher.
“I have every intention of coming back and catching. That’s what I do,” Mauer said after Twins General Manager Terry Ryan decided to drop any effort to return the All-Star catcher to the lineup in the season’s final week. “But right now, I have to take care of this situation. I look forward to getting back out on the field next year. As a catcher.”
The Twins have hoped all along that he would simply get back into the lineup at any position, but five weeks after Davis’ foul tip ricocheted off Mauer’s helmet, the concussion symptoms — a sensitivity to light and to noise, unexplained anxiety, “just not being yourself,” he said — have not gone away, and even got worse during the Twins’ previous homestand.
“Last homestand was kind of a rough go. I realized then it was going to be a tough thing to finish out the year,” Mauer said. “Once the team got out of town, it really calmed down, especially with dialing back the activity. So I think that helped out a lot. Right now I’m feeling good, but that’s relative to the amount of work I’ve been doing.”
Taking away an artificial deadline, Ryan said, should insure that Mauer is 100 percent healthy in time for Opening Day next year.
“He’s making steady progress, and a lot of favorable things [are] going on. But with the calendar and the schedule about ready to run out, it’s unrealistic for us to think we’re going to get him on the field this year,” especially since he hasn’t swung a bat in weeks, and hasn’t caught a pitch since the day after the injury, Ryan said. “So we’re going to work toward the 2014 season.”
Mauer’s workday consists of stretching and light exercises now, but mostly rest, since overstimulation seems to bring the symptoms back. He has had several good days, Mauer stressed, “so I shouldn’t have any problems lingering, and I’ll try to keep getting better.”
Trouble is, nobody can predict when, or even whether, that will make the symptoms disappear, as the Twins learned from Justin Morneau’s experience following the career-altering concussion he suffered in July 2010.
“The Morneau situation gave us a pretty good indicator: You’ve got to be careful. Only give so much, take exactly what he can give you, and move on to the next step,” Ryan said. “We’re much more educated about this situation than we used to be.”
With the help of the Twins’ athletic trainers and medical staff, Mauer, who has five seasons remaining on his $23 million-per-year contract, will devise a workout program for the winter to help put the injury in the past.
And then? Is he still a catcher, or does he take Morneau’s place at first base?
“I would anticipate him wanting to catch. Now, whether or not [we have] a difference of opinion, we’ll sit down in the near future and talk it out,” Ryan said. But “it’ll be his call.”