Yes, I landed a lengthy interview with Joe Mauer, which I wrote about in today's paper.

No, I didn't get clear answers about his injuries.

That's the problem: I don't think Joe knows exactly what's wrong, other than that his rehab process didn't put him in position to remain healthy once the season began.

Joe is a difficult interview to begin with, and my first go-round with him yielded few answers. Two subsequent phone interviews gave him a chance to elaborate a little. I think what kept him from providing more clarity - this is me reading between the lines - is that he doesn't want to blame anyone else for his lack of progress.

My guess is that he feels he didn't receive proper guidance or advice at some point during his surgery/rehab process, but he's too polite to call anyone out. That would explain why he took an extra visit to the Mayo Clinic to get checked out even after the Twins gave him medical clearance to play.

What I took away from my talks with Mauer is that he hates being portrayed as a slacker, and is desperate to get back on the field, but fears that if he rushes the process he'll be lost for the season or do himself permanent harm.

For those who say Mauer should be ordered onto the field, I would ask that you live in the real world. You can't order a player to play against his will. What if Ron Gardenhire ordered Mauer to play catcher tomorrow, and Mauer injured himself. That's a $184-million investment that Gardenhire would have ruined or damaged.

At this point, the Twins are so far out of contention that I'd recommend giving Mauer all the time he needs. There is no real urgency to his return. What's more important for the future of this franchise is that the braintrust and Mauer come to an agreement on how he'll be used next year, so if he's going to change positions, they can find a catcher.

I would like the Twins to put themselves in a position where they have flexibility with Mauer, and can keep him in the lineup when his legs are sore. I'd like to see them play Mauer about 80 games a year at catcher and the rest in the outfield or at DH. For all of this team's problems, scoring runs is No. 1 right now. This team needs Mauer in the lineup every day.

-I picked the Heat to beat the Bulls, and I'm sticking with it. While Chicago was the far superior team in Game 1, I believe the Heat will play better and adapt to Chicago's energy level, and I'm not sure Chicago can play at that level again.

But I hope I'm wrong. I love the Chicago story - career assistant Tom Thibodeau becoming coach of the year, Derrick Rose becoming an engaging superstar, a team winning with defense and grit. I hate the Miami story - egomaniacs on parade. But I think the Heat will play better from here on out.

-I've been following my old friend Ray Ratto on Twitter. Ray, a wonderful columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, now works for Comcast in the Bay Area, and is prolific on Twitter. He also responds to fans frequently.

While I receive plenty of strange, naive, silly responses via email and Twitter, Ray's interaction with San Jose Sharks fans has made me realize just how few sports fans understand the role of reporters and columnists.

I'll keep this brief: We're not fans. At least, we're not supposed to be, although there are enough frauds in local media that I understand how some people could be confused.

Reporters supposed to tell you what's happening with the team they cover. Columnists and other opinion-makers are supposed to provide opinion, insight and analysis, although, as I did today, sometimes we wear the hat of a reporter.

We are not supposed to be cheerleaders. We are not supposed to root for the home team. We're supposed to provide information and reality-based analysis.

So if you're one of those people who ask me and my colleagues why we're not pulling for the locals, well, it's because we're not supposed to be. Not if we're doing our jobs correctly.

As in all things, there are gray areas here. There are teams and athletes I like more than others. I hate to see a good guy like Justin Morneau dealing with a concussion. I like it when the local teams are good enough to go to the playoffs, because that makes my job more interesting and is good for my newspaper and radio station.

But there is a difference between being interested in the well-being of local athletes and teams, and blindly cheerleading for them. I don't see any value in the latter, and I don't know why a fan would, either.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today and all week, and I'll be calling Joe Anderson's show tonight at 6:15 on the same station.

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