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.”

Mauer said he has been healthy and wants to maintain that. “Hopefully I can stay out on the field, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

As for the Twins’ losing streak, which has reached eight games: “Hopefully we keep getting better and better,” Mauer said. “That’s the goal. We have been in a funk lately, we’ve played some good teams but hopefully we can bounce back and have a good road trip.”

Saunders reacts

Now that the Timberwolves have wound up with the ninth pick in the NBA draft — where their record indicated they would be before Tuesday’s draft lottery — club President Flip Saunders was asked how good the draft will be.

“There’s so much talk about how this isn’t a good draft, but I think what it is is a draft that is interesting and deep at certain positions,” Saunders said. “What I mean by that is you might be able to get a player normally that might go number seven in the draft, or eight, and you might be able to get him at number 16 just because of the way the draft might play out with some people’s needs and the depth at some positions.”

Jottings

• Wolves forward Kevin Love told NBC Sports that he and Saunders have been hitting it off so far. “He’s very hopeful that I’ll be a part of the team, a big part of the team, for many years to come,’’ Love said. “And I don’t see why he should think otherwise.” Saunders added to that sentiment saying, “What you want to do is you want to make sure that [Love is] part of your foundation. And I’ve talked a lot with Ricky [Rubio], but Ricky, of course, is overseas, it’s not quite as easy.”

• Prom Catering, a company that began doing the concessions at local golf tournaments, provides catering for the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour, the LPGA Tour and the USGA, among others. Prom will provide concessions for the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia next month, plus all of Tiger Woods’ tournaments. At the recent Players Championship, Prom set a tournament record for revenue.

• The only two Vikings not working out on a regular basis in organized team activities at Winter Park are defensive end Jared Allen and running back Adrian Peterson. Regarding Peterson’s absence, coach Leslie Frazier said: “It kind of happened not by his choice. He had the abdominal strain late in the season, and that has kind of slowed him this offseason as far as being able to kick things into overdrive and doing things the way he wants to do it. It has slowed him down a little, but he is just about back to 100 percent, doing everything he has to do [in Texas] to be in the best possible shape for the season.’’

• Gophers wrestler Kevin Steinhaus, who completed his junior season this winter, was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team, which is selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Steinhaus has a 3.40 grade-point average while majoring in kinesiology.

• The Gophers could have two pitchers selected in Major League Baseball’s draft in June. They are lefthander Tom Windle, who has a great reputation after pitching in the Cape Cod League last year, and lefthander DJ Snelten, who recently was named Big Ten pitcher of the week.

• The Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis will be host to a U.S. Open national playoffs sectional qualifying tournament from June 20-24. Those tournaments provide opportunities for players to win a spot in the U.S. Open in New York.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com.

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