FORT MYERS, FLA. - Joe Mauer played his first three innings at catcher in more than seven weeks during an extended spring training game Thursday, and emerged saying he felt good but "fatigued." He also went 0-for-5 at the plate, hitting two flies to left and three infield grounders.
Mauer, who reiterated his desire to return to the majors long-term as an every-day catcher, missed most of spring training after offseason surgery on his left knee. He's been on the disabled list since April 12, recovering from leg weakness, a sore right shoulder and a virus.
The Twins lost to Tampa Bay's extended spring team 11-5 on a back field at the Lee County Sports Complex with fewer than 40 fans in attendance. Mauer said he planned on playing designated hitter Friday before deciding when to catch again.
"It was a good day today, just getting back again," Mauer said. "Everything felt good, just a little fatigued. But it felt good to get back out there."
Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, rehabilitating from a broken leg, started at shortstop and played a full nine innings. He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
After Thursday's 8-2 victory over the Royals, the Twins moved Mauer to the 60-day disabled list to free a 40-man roster spot for utility man Brian Dinkelman. Mauer is still eligible to return June 12.
"That's pretty much right on schedule," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Any time after that we can activate him, that would be great."
In Mauer's first inning behind the plate, an opposing baserunner stole second base. Mauer's throw was there, but the runner knocked the ball loose, and Mauer was charged with an error.
Mauer's legs have felt good for some time, he said, but right shoulder pain has held him back.
"It felt pretty good getting up and throwing," Mauer said. "I'm not full-go there just yet, but it felt good, so it was a good day."
Looking back at spring training, Mauer now acknowledges that he rushed himself back to get ready for the April 1 season opener.
"I might not have been totally honest with myself and just trying to suck it up and play," he said. "It's a different thing when you're dealing with an injury and you're just sore. I was trying to fight through it and get to where I needed to get to, and it just didn't work out. ... I'm feeling a lot better. I feel like I'm moving around a lot better right now than I did in the spring, and hopefully I can get back to catching every day."
Star Tribune staff writer Joe Christensen contributed to this report.