Hartman: Mauer comfortable back behind the plate

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 23, 2013 - 7:26 AM

The catcher is catching more often this year because Justin Morneau is healthy and back at first base.

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Twins catcher Joe Mauer tagged out Texas base runner Geovany Soto at home in April.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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If there is one thing about which Joe Mauer is happy so far this season, it’s the fact that he has been catching a lot more games than he did last year, when Justin Morneau wasn’t available for duty at first base.

Through 43 team games this year, Mauer has played 31 at catcher, compared with 21 through the same number of games last year, which he likes.

“It has been good. I think it makes me even more happy that 33 [Morneau] is out there. Justin has been playing well and been out there every day at first base,” Mauer said.

“It has been nice for me to get back behind the plate and use a DH day when need be.

“You know, I told [manager Ron Gardenhire] coming into the season, and even last year, wherever you need me that’s where I go. I’m healthy enough to catch every day, and I think me playing so much first base last year was just the way the roster shook out with Justin with injuries and things like that. Everybody is healthy, so that allows me to go back to where I kind of belong.”

Mauer is happy with his performance to date. He is hitting .337, which ranked fourth in the American League through Tuesday.

“I have been playing pretty good, swinging the bat pretty good. I’m just trying to hold onto that feeling,” he said. “We have a long ways to go, but it’s nice to get off to a good start.”

Mauer got married during the offseason, and he said his offseason conditioning was slightly different from in the past.

“But it was a good offseason,’’ he said. “I was able to focus on getting healthy and strong, and I really hadn’t had one of those in a long time.”

About the Twins’ pitching not holding up after a good start to the season: “Early on we were getting really good starts across the board, and things happen throughout a season. Sometimes you know it doesn’t go your way, and hitting is on and pitching is off and then pitching is on and hitting is off. We’re just trying to get on the same page.”

Mauer said it has been different hitting second in the batting order as opposed to third, as he had in the past.

“It’s a game of adjustments, and teams keep trying to adjust and I have to try to figure out what they’re doing and what they’re trying to do to me,” he said.

Mauer also said the team continues to approach its hitting based on the spacious nature of Target Field.

“There’s more space out there to get a base hit or a double, but the word around here is try to keep it out of the air and try to drive the ball and hopefully they find holes.”

And what about how other teams are able to seemingly come in and hit the ball out of the park?

“The thing with that is visiting teams will come in and only play a couple games here, and it doesn’t really affect them that much,’’ Mauer said. “I think the park will have a little bit more of an effect when you’re playing 81 games a year.”

Mauer also talked about how opposing teams have been approaching his at-bats.

“It kind of goes back to this park,” he said. “I’ve noticed that a lot of teams when we play here will try and throw the ball outside and try to have me hit it to left field, because it is pretty difficult for a lefthanded hitter to hit it to left field over the fence.”

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