Too-tall Joe?

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2011 - 10:08 AM

The Twins All-Star might be the tallest catcher ever, and that height is a factor in how long he can stay behind the plate.

Joe Mauer literally went through a growth spurt after winning his first batting title in 2006, climbing from 6-4 to 6-5 at age 23.

In a lighthearted moment the following spring, Mauer acknowledged that he's actually 6-6 "wearing shoes."

"I don't want to get too big," Mauer said, "or I might have to move [positions]."

The growth spurt stopped, but at 6-5, Mauer is as tall as any catcher in baseball history. Questions about his future at the position keep returning, especially now that he's back on the disabled list with what the Twins have called "bilateral leg weakness."

Mauer has won three Gold Glove Awards and three batting titles, but he's also had two surgeries on his left knee, including one in December. He missed the first month of his 2009 MVP season because of a lower-back injury that doctors continue to monitor.

Mauer, who turned 28 on Tuesday, is making $23 million in the first season of an eight-year contract, so his playing position is a potential franchise- altering issue for the Twins, yet it pains them to talk about it publicly.

Asked this week whether Mauer's height adds to concerns about his durability at catcher, Twins General Manager Bill Smith simply said, "No." Smith noted that another tall player, Carlton Fisk, caught more games than anybody in major league history before the 5-9 Ivan Rodriguez broke the record.

Various listings had Fisk at 6-2 or 6-3 and about 200 to 220 pounds. The 2011 Twins media guide lists Mauer at 233 pounds, making him both bigger and heavier than Fisk, Lance Parrish, Mike Piazza or any of baseball's top 25 leaders in games caught since 1919, according to

Other notable major league catchers listed at 6-5 include Baltimore's Matt Wieters and former Cleveland All-Star Sandy Alomar Jr. But according to Baseball Prospectus research, no catcher listed at 6-6 or taller has accumulated more than 200 at-bats in the majors.


For Mauer, being tall is one thing. Being tall with chronic knee and back issues is another.

Dr. Aimee Klapach, an orthopedic surgeon at Sports and Orthopedic Specialists in Minneapolis, said a person's size has a direct relationship to the stress that's put on joints, such as knees and ankles. And in Mauer's case, his weight -- even though he is in good shape --might be a bigger factor to stressing his joints than his height.

"Every extra pound adds an extra three to five pounds to what a lower extremity joint feels," she said. "If a person is carrying 15 extra pounds, that's 45 pounds or more of what the joint feels. ... The bigger you are, the more load you're going to see across the joint, especially for a position like catcher, where it's up and down, and you're sort of in an awkward position for an extended period of time. That joint is going to see an increased load compared to someone who's shorter or lighter."

Klapach said that for a large person with healthy knees, it's difficult to predict problems. But for a person who already has had knee surgery and is missing some cartilage, like Mauer, deterioration of the joint at some point is a given.

How long a repaired knee can withstand the stress of an activity like catching is the unknown in Mauer's case. But the likelihood that it will affect him is a virtual certainty.

"We just don't know the rate of deterioration," she said. "In some patients, it happens very quickly."


Since making his major league debut in 2004, Mauer has caught in 728 games. Over that same span, A.J. Pierzynski has caught in 911.

The 6-3, 225-pound Pierzynski, now with the White Sox, is the player the Twins displaced to make room for Mauer before his rookie season.

"The thing is, sometimes it's luck, and freak things happen to you," Pierzynski said. "Joe was unfortunate early in his career to have knee problems. I know they've been talking about moving Joe [to another position] for years. But he's much more valuable as a catcher than any other position because he's pretty darn good back there."

Fisk is among the Hall of Fame catchers who had to play other positions. He injured his knee in a home-plate collision in 1974, his third full season, and went on to DH for 42 games in 1979. He also started 27 career games in left field and nine at first base.

Yogi Berra spent time in the outfield to help the Yankees make room for catcher Elston Howard. Johnny Bench finished his career with 111 starts at third base, 70 at first base and another 45 in the outfield.

Mauer, who starred at quarterback and point guard at Cretin-Derham Hall, has repeatedly said he hopes to continue catching as long as possible. During spring training, when he was limited to eight games and 20 official at-bats, he said his main focus was on rebuilding leg strength.

This is paramount for catchers. Rick Dempsey, who ranks 18th on baseball's career list with 1,633 games caught, said he made running a daily ritual, even in the offseason.

"I never, ever let my legs get out of shape," Dempsey said. "It was a 365-day-a-year job for me. That's why I lasted so long."

Dempsey, now an Orioles analyst for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, had more of a prototypical build for a catcher at 6 feet tall, 190 pounds. This year, the average major league catcher stands 6 feet, 0.5 inches tall and weighs 216.8 pounds.

Wieters, the Orioles' starting catcher, is listed at 6-5 and 225. He's already gained an appreciation for the physical demands of the job.

"I'll lose anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds [during the season]," Wieters said. "I'll come into the season around 235, and I'll try to finish the season around 220, 225. Last year, I ended up around 215 so I lost around five pounds more than I wanted."

One month shy of his 25th birthday, Wieters has caught in 226 games.

"He's not big and heavy; he's lean and wiry," Dempsey said of Wieters. "That might work in his favor."

The durability questions are there for tall catchers, even when they're healthy. Besides the leg weakness, Mauer is trying to get over a virus that put him in the hospital and made him lose 12 pounds.

"Right now, [Mauer's height is] not a concern for me," former Twins catcher Tim Laudner said. "Let's get him healthy, put some weight back on him and then we'll see where we're at."

Star Tribune staff writers Dennis Brackin and La Velle E. Neal III contributed to this report.

  • related content

  • Souhan: Everyday player? Forget it, unless Mauer is moved

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Monday, Joe Mauer visited a medical specialist in Baltimore about his sore, weakened legs.

  • Twins best

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Most games caught by Twins catchers:

  • More recent durable catchers

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Injuries have nagged Joe Mauer since he broke into the majors in 2004. Here's a look at the most games caught by major leaguers since the start of the 2004...

  • Ironmen catchers

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    IRONMEN CATCHERSBelow Joe Mauer's totals are the 25 players who have caught the most games since 1919, according to

  • Early lead vanishes in Twins' latest loss

    Thursday April 21, 2011

    Nick Blackburn couldn't keep the Orioles off the scoreboard after Michael Cuddyer's early home run.

  • Sore ribs, flu keep Young on bench

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Twins outfielder Delmon Young's sore ribs and stomach flu could keep him out of the lineup until the Twins return home to open a three-game series against Cleveland on Friday...

  • Twins-Baltimore game recap

    Wednesday April 20, 2011

    Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles

  • Fans work for the home team

    Thursday April 21, 2011

    On Twins game day, many regular folks liven up the proceedings by singing, throwing the first pitch, raising the flag and more.

  • Joe Mauer

  • Joe Mauer

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 123
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
Montana State 59 FINAL
Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 64 FINAL
Hawaii 72
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question