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Continued: Twins: What can Mauer do for an encore?

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 30, 2007 - 2:11 PM

• • •

Rod Carew

Total batting titles: seven

First: 1969, at age 23

Second: 1972, at age 26

Last: 1978, at age 32

What are the keys as Mauer looks to sustain last year's success?

"I never went into spring training saying I'm going to lead the league this year," Carew said. "I just tried to get as many base hits as I could. You have to be greedy. When you get two, you want three. You get three, you want four. You get four, if you get a fifth at-bat, you want to get five."

Carew was a magician with the bat in his hands. Like Gwynn, he could hit home runs, but he never became preoccupied with power.

Still, Carew can see power becoming a bigger part of Mauer's game. He likened him to Garret Anderson, who hit .321 with 16 home runs and 69 RBI as a rookie for the Angels in 1995.

By 2003, Anderson was an MVP, batting .315 with 29 homers and 116 RBI.

"He's the same size as Garret, and the thing to me is they both learned how to hit the ball hard first," Carew said. "Garret went from there to driving the ball, and that's what Joe's going to do."

At TwinsFest, Mauer told Carew his spring training goal was to work on handling the inside pitch. Late last season, teams consistently pounded Mauer with fastballs on his hands. When he does strike out, it's often because he chases pitches inside. He also grounded into 24 double plays last year, 15 more than in 2005.

"I'd say right now, I probably feel more comfortable with the ball out over the plate," Mauer said. "But if they come inside, I feel pretty good, too. That's the thing: You just want to make sure you're a well-balanced hitter, and that's what I'm trying to be."

As a catcher, wear-and-tear is a serious factor, too. By September, Mauer's whole body ached. He had bone bruises on two of his left fingers (from his glove hand) and it robbed him of some bat speed. Earlier in the year, Mauer's hands felt great.

"The kid can hit," Carew said. "I mean, he can hit. And what I really like about him is he's very quiet at the plate. [Justin] Morneau is the same way. You don't find them jumping at the ball. They're always nice and easy, nice and smooth.

"The reason he's able to do that is he uses his hands real well. His hands are the key to what he does at the plate. If your hands hurt, it's tough. You can hurt anyplace else, but if your hands hurt, sometimes it's going to be a struggle."

In some ways, Mauer will always be measured against his .347 average from last year. Will he be satisfied if that's the only batting title he ever wins?

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