Mauer proving he's a strong link

Mauer is one of four Twins (Denard Span, Jamey Carroll and Josh Willingham are the others) who have not missed a game.

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Catcher Joe Mauer, left, is one of four Twins who hasn't missed a game yet this season.

Photo: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - A little more than a year ago during a trip to play the Rays, Joe Mauer's season took a hard right turn -- right to the trainer's room.

That was when doctors diagnosed him as having what the Twins called bilateral leg weakness, which began the season of woe for Joe. Mauer maintains that most of his problems then stemmed from a viral infection, but he also had started the season coming off knee surgery and his body was not in condition to withstand the rigors of the baseball season. It showed, as he played in only 82 games.

A year later, Mauer is a picture of health. He has normal soreness after games, but Mauer is one of four Twins (Denard Span, Jamey Carroll and Josh Willingham are the others) who have not missed a game.

"It's good," Mauer said. "It's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get out there every day. Obviously I feel it [after games], but it is good to be in the lineup every day."

Mauer has made nine starts behind the plate, four at first base and three as the designated hitter. Ryan Doumit's presence as a backup catcher with a capable bat has allowed Mauer to play other positions and stay fresher.

"That gives you a little bit of a reprieve from the daily grind that can beat you up as a catcher," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Mauer said he talks with Gardenhire constantly about how he's feeling and where he wants to play.

"We talk pretty much every day about it," Mauer said. "He's going to ask me and I'm going to tell him I want to be in there."

Blackburn ready to start

After a 52-pitch bullpen session Sunday, righthander Nick Blackburn said he's more than ready to start Tuesday against the Red Sox. It will come 10 days after he left a start because of what turned out to be a cramp in his shoulder.

"I could not feel anything at all," Blackburn said. "Everything is good."

Stretching and massages have helped. The massage therapy worked so well that he plans to incorporate massages into his between-starts routine.

Anthony Swarzak, who pitched two innings in relief Sunday, will head back to the bullpen. The Twins will carry 13 pitchers on the active roster through the Boston series but are expected to go back to 12 pitchers after the off day on Thursday.

A's claim Hughes

Infielder Luke Hughes, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday, has been claimed off of waivers by Oakland. Hughes had spent his entire career with the Twins organization after signing with them out of Australia in 2002.

Hughes appeared in four games for the Twins, going 2-for-10, after a spring training during which he hit six homers and had 20 RBI. He's able to play first, second and third and can be used in the outfield. But the club wanted to see more improvement defensively from him.

Hughes alerted his followers on Twitter with the message: "Well it looks like I have found a job." Later, he added: "I'm very happy to say that I'm off to Oakland. Thank you to the Minnesota Twins organization and to the fans. Can't wait for the fresh start."

Etc.

• Willingham was 0-for-2 with a walk Sunday, ending his hitting streak to begin the season at 15 games. He tied Kirby Puckett (1994) for the club record.

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