As Joe Mauer returns to action tonight for the first time in about a month, two teammates offered thoughts on what might keep their All-Star catcher in the lineup.
"I think some people take pain in different ways," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "Some people have to play at 100 percent, and Joe may be one of those guys. I've seen it happen. Joe is a good player, and he wants to perform at 100 percent, not at 80 percent.
"Me, I grew up in a different time. I'm ready to play no matter what -- broken toe, hamstring, groin, back -- and that's the mentality I've grown to have."
Mauer is not expected to DH much because the Twins have found that he struggles to stay loose while sitting on the bench between at-bats.
Hunter agreed, suggesting that Mauer, who has missed the past 29 games, is better off moving around on the field. "It may be better for him to catch," Hunter said. "Hopefully, adrenaline takes over. That's your pain killer; you don't even think about being hurt until after the game is over."
Mauer could not be reached for comment.
Twins backup catcher Mike Redmond has spoken to Mauer about pacing himself a little more.
"When you ground out, you don't have to [sprint] to first when you're out by 30 feet," Redmond said. "People might say, 'He's not going hard.' As a catcher, you've got to know when to give that little extra and know when to conserve as much energy as you can. ... That's hard to do."
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan isn't worried about Mauer getting too tall (he's grown to 6-5) or breaking down too much, pointing out that the types of injuries he has had could have happened at any position.
"He's got a great frame." Ryan said. "He's everything you look for in a ballplayer. I don't think you start planning for a change."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is determined to be careful with Mauer so he can be in the lineup as much as possible.
"All catchers sit out," Gardenhire said. "There are going to be days where he's going to just have to sit out. You can't wear a catcher out just to get his bat in the lineup every day. You have to give them their days just because they take a beating more than everybody else."
As for the long-term outlook, Gardenhire said the club wants to keep the All-Star catcher behind the plate as long as he wants to be there.
"You don't, all of sudden, say, 'You're out,' " Gardenhire said. "Obviously, if it becomes an issue and he continues to have leg problems as he goes along, you have to think about it."
Mauer is expected to play tonight and Saturday before taking Sunday's game off. After that, Gardenhire will stay in touch with the training staff to make sure Mauer isn't overworked.
"I'm just letting people tell me what we are going to do with this young man," Gardenhire said, "Obviously, he's the kind of kid whose bat you'd like to keep in the lineup."