Twins catcher Joe Mauer on Saturday caught Nick Blackburn's bullpen session then talked shop with Blackburn and Kevin Slowey.

Mauer struck a pose that hadn't been seen this spring training. He wore all his catching gear and gestured with his hands while he talked about the movement of Blackburn's pitches.

When he'll squat behind a plate during an exhibition game still isn't known. He did suggest that he could appear in a spring training game as a designated hitter sometime after Tuesday's scheduled off day.

When asked if he could appear in a game, ``a couple days after the off day,'' he sounded optimistic.

``Yeah I'd like to,'' he said. ``Like I said, it was the first day. We have to see how we feel tomorrow and the next day, but if I'm feeling good then, yeah, I want to get in there.''

Mauer said his legs are getting stronger and his knee feels good. He's been taking injections of Supartz, a lubricant that should help his left knee handle the rigors of catching this season. Supartz can be administered in up to five injections, but Mauer stopped at three.He had off season surgery on the knee to deal with inflammation..

``I feel close,'' he said. ``This last week I definitely made some big strides. When I first reported to camp I was a mess. But I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm using more of my leg. Even with hitting. I feel like I'm using my back leg more, where I wasn't able to use it a lot last year.''

He'll have to see how his legs respond tomorrow after catching in the bullpen but indicated he would need to catch in the bullpen a few more times before he's ready to do so in a game. He remains confident he'll be in the lineup on Opening Day.

``I don't think Opening Day was ever in doubt.'' Mauer said.


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