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Mauer plays out of necessity

  • Article by: La Velle E. Neal III
  • Star Tribune
  • September 5, 2007 - 12:52 AM

Of course the Twins want Joe Mauer to change positions. They want him to move from the trainer's room to the starting lineup.

Mauer took a few more steps in that direction Tuesday when he took batting practice for a second consecutive day and continued working on his strained left hamstring.

Then, because he was the only catcher available, he came in to finish Mike Redmond's at-bat in the 10th inning against Cleveland. Redmond, pinch hitting for starting catcher Chris Heintz, had to leave the game after appearing to injure his right hand fouling off a 3-2 pitch against Rafael Betancourt.

Mauer swung and missed at the only pitch he saw, then remained in the game to catch.

Mauer has had no setbacks with his highly publicized leg.

"Joe is feeling good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's moving around good, getting better and better. Those are all good things."

The last test before returning to the lineup is to run the bases hard, and Mauer, who hasn't played since Aug. 25, is getting closer to that day.

"Possibly this weekend," Gardenhire said. "But he's definitely feeling better."

Strain is really a tear

Infielder Tommy Watkins was called up from the minors last month and hit .357 in nine games before landing on the disabled list with what was believed to be an abdominal strain.

An MRI on Monday revealed that Watkins has a slightly torn groin muscle.

"It was weird the way it started," he said.

Watkins will need two to four weeks to recover, meaning his season could be over. The Twins will send him to their year-round facility in Fort Myers, Fla. -- also his hometown -- to regain his fitness. If he heals fast, he could be brought back for the last week of the season.

It's a rough end of the season for Watkins, who was drafted in the 38th round in 1998 and had played in 824 minor league games before getting the call last month.

"Everybody plays to get that chance to play in the big leagues, and I got that chance," said Watkins, who wants to play winter ball during the offseason. "Now you're hungry even more to get here and try to stay."

Baker's encore

Righthander Scott Baker will face the Indians today, pitching for the first time since his one-hitter vs. Kansas City on Friday.

It was against Cleveland on Aug. 5 that Baker had another of his turn-the-corner outings. In that game, Baker held the Indians to four hits over eight innings on two walks and four strikeouts. The Twins won 1-0.

"It will be fun to see Baker," Gardenhire said. "I'm sure everyone is excited to see what happens."

Baker is 8-6 with a 4.09 earned run average. His ERA is the lowest it's been since May.

Etc.

• Gardenhire was asked if Redmond, known for taking an occasional "naked walk" to loosen things up in the clubhouse, had done so recently. "Not lately," Gardenhire said. "He can't walk. Been too tired."

• Lefthander Glen Perkins, on the disabled list since May because of a mild muscle strain in his left shoulder, played catch Tuesday with no problems. Perkins is expected to try to throw in the bullpen later this week.

• Lefthander Dennys Reyes, who is experiencing elbow problems, won't be examined by specialist Lewis Yocum until next week.

La Velle E. Neal III • lneal@startribune.com

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