Healthy Mauer put in the work to return to All-Star form

The Twins catcher has been able to stay on the field this season, and has returned to his place among the game's leading hitters.

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Joe Mauer has managed to stay in the Twins lineup throughout most of this season, whether it be as catcher, first baseman or designated hitter.

Photo: Jim Mone, Associated Press

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ARLINGTON, TEXAS - When healthy, Joe Mauer hits.

The first half of the season has been a reminder of what he can do when he's not battling knee or shoulder injuries, pneumonia or other ailments.

And not just hit, hit with the best of them.

Mauer is headed to his fifth All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City as a reserve on the American League team. He enters the break fifth in the AL with a .326 batting average and third in all of baseball with a .417 on-base percentage.

He could use the All-Star appointment as vindication after being criticized for not being on the field last year. He does drop hints that the criticism he faced last season bothered him more than he has let on. But he is not pointing to his revival this season and demanding more respect.

"I never had to prove it to myself," Mauer said. "Obviously, nothing has changed for me as far as how I go about my job. What's the most frustrating is that there are people out there with their opinions and they put them out there that I'm doing this or not doing that. I've worked harder or more in the last year to try to get back on the field than I ever have in my life.

"That's what was the most frustrating about it, how much time and effort and work and people don't realize that."

After an injury-filled 2011 season, Mauer pledged to do everything he could to stay on the field in 2012 and be there for his Twins teammates.

Since he didn't have a injury or surgery to deal with, like in past years, he applied himself to offseason conditioning like never before -- even summoning media to Target Field during the offseason to discuss his workouts.

He said he arrived at spring training this year in his best shape since his MVP season of 2009. For the most part, he has achieved his goal, as he has played in 77 of 85 games.

He wasn't pleased with his swing in spring training. Unable to use his left leg the way he wanted to because of the knee problem in 2011, Mauer had to compensate to get through the season. He needed time this year to incorporate his legs back into his swing.

He was batting .290 on June 1. Since then, he has hit .392.

"I'm swinging the bat pretty good, but there's always room for improvement," he said. "There still are some things I'm working on in the cage with [hitting coach] Joe [Vavra]. Still trying to get that feeling and hold on as long as you can and trying to get better."

Mauer remains vague about what disappointed him the most about last season's health watch, but it's clear that he believes there should have been better communication about his situation. He was asked to clarify things during an interview Saturday, but he preferred to talk about how hard he has worked to get back into the lineup.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has done his part, using first base and the designated hitter spots to keep Mauer fresher and available for more games.

"As you get older in this game, it's a nonstop learning process," Gardenhire said. "Your body doesn't react the same way it does when you are younger. You get away with things you can't get away with as you get a little older. You're also talking about a catcher who is bending over and squatting. He's realizing you can't just, 'Seasons over, go home, have a few beers, relax during the winter and go down to spring and get in shape.' The game has gotten so much bigger than that.

"And I'm not saying that is what Joe did, but I'm saying that players have realized that to keep up they have to stay in shape all year long. The time you take off from baseball is minimal from where it used to be."

A year ago, Mauer was in the cross hairs of controversy. Making the All-Star team is a great way to forget last season.

"That's definitely an honor," Mauer said. "The hard work I've put it in, it's a nice little reward to go there and to enjoy it. Obviously, you're never promised to go to the All-Star Game and you don't know the last time you're going to go. As long as they keep having me I'll keep going back. I'm definitely excited about it and it's a nice little thing midway through. I guess you reflect on all the hard work I put in."

  • ALL-STAR BREAK IN KANSAS CITY 7 P.M. TODAY • HOME RUN DERBY • TV: ESPN

    Tuesday: All-Star Game • 7 p.m. • Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. • TV: Ch. 9

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Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
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Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Ottawa 0 1st Prd 19:14
NY Islanders 1
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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