DETROIT – For an offense that has largely wilted in the June sun, getting Joe Mauer and his .404 on-base percentage back in the lineup seems ideal, particularly as the Twins embark on an important three-game series against first-place Cleveland.
“I don’t know if there’s a bad time to add Joe Mauer back into your lineup,” Twins manager Paul Molitor agreed.
Mauer’s return from the disabled list Friday comes four weeks to the day since he last played, and that was one day after he dived for a pop-up in foul territory, suffering a cervical strain that led to occasional balance issues and sensitivity to light. Those symptoms have dissipated, but as a first baseman, Mauer figures to have occasion to dive to make more plays. The Twins have no way to know, Molitor said, what might happen when he does.
“There are some things that you can’t really practice. Some things are just going to happen, and how he responds to those things — I don’t think he’s going to change,” Molitor said. “He’s probably going to be the same player defensively, offensively, running the bases, and we’ll just be hopeful that nothing sets him back.”
Mauer went 0-for-10 for Rochester in his two-day rehab assignment, but Molitor said he’s unconcerned by that. Mostly, he sounded excited about the three-time batting champion’s potential effect on a Twins lineup that has scored two runs or less four times in the past six games.
“Joe is extremely patient, extremely prepared, one of those guys who is not afraid to hit with two strikes. And he shouldn’t be because he’s really good in those situations,” Molitor said. “He’s just one of those professional hitters who seem to take good at-bats each and every night, whether it’s getting hits or driving in runs or getting on base or taking walks. It’s part of what makes a team effective, when you get guys who can slow the game down when they get in the box.”
Cave goes down
The Twins’ decision to send Miguel Sano to the minors had a ripple effect that cost outfielder Jake Cave his major league job, at least for now.
With Sano gone and Gregorio Petit designated for assignment earlier in the week, the Twins were left with only three infielders — Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza and Brian Dozier — to play the three infield spots beside Mauer. That meant the Twins had to part with one of their five active outfielders in order to add depth to the infield.
The Twins won’t announce the corresponding move until Friday, but they have only one other middle infielder on their 40-man roster: Taylor Motter, claimed off waivers from Seattle in May. It’s possible they could consider adding a nonroster player — top prospect Nick Gordon comes to mind — but that would require jettisoning another player from the roster, something they’ll already have to do in two weeks when Jorge Polanco returns from suspension, and whenever Ervin Santana returns from finger surgery.
Motter, though, is batting .167 at Class AAA Rochester, and is a lifetime .198 hitter in 132 career games in the majors.
Petit, meanwhile, cleared waivers and agreed to a minor league assignment with Rochester.
Twins coaches and players, who always enjoy finding new ways to needle gregarious bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, held a pregame “team meeting” Thursday to celebrate, complete with a cake, the fifth anniversary of “Eddie Guardado Day,” the day in 2013 that the longtime closer was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame.
Guardado made the mistake earlier this season of wearing one of the T-shirts the Twins gave away that day, and team members were able to find a stash of duplicates, which they’ve been wearing the shirts on this road trip, to Guardado’s chagrin.