Phil Miller covered three seasons of Twins baseball, but that was at a different ballpark for a different newspaper. Now Miller returns to the baseball beat after joining the Star Tribune as the Gopher football writer in 2010, and he won't miss the dingy dome for a minute. In addition to the Twins and Gophers, Miller covered the Utah Jazz and the NBA for six years at The Salt Lake Tribune.

For Mauer, facing Verlander is a good thing

Posted by: Phil Miller under MLB Updated: April 29, 2013 - 10:27 PM

Three thoughts on the Twins' 4-3 loss on the first day of a nine-game trip:

-- Hard not to feel sorry for Joe Mauer. As if extending his hitless streak to a career-high 20 straight at-bats wasn't bad enough, the Twins' catcher took two hard foul balls off his mask in the space of three pitches in the seventh inning Monday. Both of them seemed to rattle Mauer a little, and umpire Paul Schrieber stalled by brushing off the plate and requesting new baseballs to give him some time.

Mauer is now batting .289, which actually is the highest among the nine players in the lineup tonight. But it's 82 points off his average just six days earlier.

It sounds funny to say, but maybe facing Justin Verlander on Tuesday is what Mauer needs. In the battle between the 2009 A.L. MVP and the 2011 A.L. MVP, Mauer is batting .373, with a .479 on-base percentage (including 12 walks, more than against any other pitcher he's ever faced), and a .593 slugging percentage (including three home runs, which is also the most he's hit against any pitcher).

-- You can tell Mike Pelfrey is getting tired of giving the same answers after every start, as he wonders when his arm will bounce back and he'll be the pitcher who won 15 games back in 2010 again. "The standards I set for myself, I'm just not meeting," he said after the Twins' 4-3 loss to Detroit.

He hates talking about his Tommy John surgery, refuses to say much other than "I feel great. I never throw a pitch where I think about my elbow." He considers it an excuse that he won't use. Admirable, sure -- but realistic?

Pelfrey has made five starts for the Twins, plus another half-dozen shorter ones in spring training -- and tonight was 363 days since his surgery. It really is a remarkably fast recovery, and while he can't figure out why it's taking awhile to get better results, I have to think it's just the nature of coming back from something that serious.

He's been having trouble with pitch counts, but tonight, after a 23-pitch first inning, his counts went: 9, 17, 7, 16, 18. "He hasn't done that in the last couple of outings," Ron Gardenhire said. "He got us into the second half of the game. ... He just needs innings, and the only way to get them is to pitch like that."

-- If anyone but Miguel Cabrera was at the plate in the sixth inning, the foul popup he hit to short right field gets caught. And then Fielder's home run just ties the game, rather than beats the Twins. But "you're playing deep back there," Gardenhire said. "Parm's out there in right center [and] deep, and the second baseman's playing to pull. It just landed in the right spot."
 

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