First base not far off for Mauer

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 2, 2011 - 11:55 PM

Joe Mauer's debut at first base could come any day.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said he considered starting Mauer at first base Saturday to give Luke Hughes a chance to rest a sore knee. But Hughes felt good enough to play, so Gardenhire used Mauer at designated hitter, with plans to have him catch again Sunday.

"He's going to get out there [at first base] pretty soon," Gardenhire said. "I think he's pretty much ready to go out there, any time we say let's go do it."

Mauer agreed that playing first base in a game will be the best way to learn the position's nuances. He's been taking ground balls during batting practice and working on throws to second base, but everything else the position requires he'll have to learn on the fly.

"You'd like to maybe get into a couple spring training games and stuff like that, but that's not the situation we're in right now," Mauer said. "Really, the only reason I'm taking ground balls over there and things like that is we've had so many injuries, and if that's the way I can help out the team, that's what I'm going to do."

Timing tells story

Mauer went 3-for-25 in his first seven games after returning from the disabled list, dropping his season average to .186. But he now has a seven-game hitting streak after going 1-for-4 Saturday, leaving his average at .241.

"It's a timing thing," Gardenhire said. "Once you get your timing, you start getting the barrel where you want it."

Gardenhire said it was tough for Mauer to regain his timing on his rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers. The Twins agreed to let Mauer stay there, instead of sending him to Class AAA Rochester, because Mauer concentrates much of his rehab work in the pool and relies on the underwater facilities in Fort Myers.

The drawback was seeing a lower grade of pitching.

"It's hard to get your timing when people are trying to get you out so hard that they don't throw strikes to you," Gardenhire said. "So you stand there and take and take, and then you swing at balls out of the zone."

Mauer also got away from using his legs because of his left knee injury.

"The leg that I've had problems with is my back leg," Mauer said. "So that's kind of what I was having a tough time doing is staying back on my back leg, driving the ball. So it's getting better, and I'm feeling better at the plate."

Etc.

• Jason Kubel (sprained left foot) took batting practice and felt good running forward in Fort Myers, but the foot bothers him when he makes cuts. He won't appear in another rehab game until that pain goes away.

• Delmon Young is leaving Sunday for a rehab assignment with Rochester.

• The Twins reached agreement with Miguel Gonzalez, a righthanded pitching prospect from the Dominican Republic. The deal hasn't officially been signed, but Sports Illustrated reported that Gonzalez, 16, will receive a $650,000 signing bonus.

• Lynx players Candice Wiggins and Maya Moore threw out the ceremonial pitches before Saturday's game.

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