Mauer appears near to return

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Joe Mauer

Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press

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When a player on the disabled list begins to run the bases, that’s often a sign he’s close to returning to action. All-Star catcher Joe Mauer on Monday circled the bases at Target Field under the watchful eye of rehab coordinator Lanning Tucker.

Joe, are you close?

“I’m getting closer,” he said as he wiped sweat from his brow. “I don’t know how many days. I just keep trying to get my work in and then try to get back out there as soon as I can.”

Mauer then took batting practice with the rest of the team, lining pitches in all directions and flashing an occasional grin.

Mauer landed on the concussion DL after taking a foul ball off his facemask Aug. 19. He’s been battling symptoms ever since, but said Monday they are “getting better every day.”

But when Mauer returns, will he catch? He indicated last week that he wanted to return behind the plate. But the Twins brought up catcher Eric Fryer with their September call-ups and have announced Ryan Doumit will not catch the rest of the season. With Fryer, Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto on the roster, they might have Mauer avoid the bulky equipment as well.

“I just want to play,” Mauer said when asked if he planned to catch upon his return.

An opening?

Eddie Rosario is one of the best hitting prospects in the Twins organization, coming off a season in which he batted .329 at Class A Fort Myers, then .284 at Class AA New Britain. Originally an outfielder, Rosario was moved to second base in 2012.

But Rosario will head to instructional league this month and mix in outfield work along with second base. And he will play both positions at the Arizona Fall League in October.

Twins officials say it’s always good to have options. But it also reveals some of their thinking about one possible outfield of the future. With Brian Dozier making strides at second base, the best way for Rosario to crack the lineup of the near future could be as an outfielder.

Shutdown possibilities

The Twins might shut down lefthander Andrew Albers, who has thrown 75 innings more than he ever has in a pro season, or righthander Mike Pelfrey, who has thrown 139⅓ innings in his first season following Tommy John surgery. Righthander Cole De Vries could replace one of them.

Etc.

• Gardenhire has noticed a more relaxed Trevor Plouffe at the plate in recent games, and the numbers show it. Plouffe entered Monday batting .321 over his past 20 games, with two home runs. After striking out in the second inning Monday, Plouffe hammered a double to left-center — giving him a hit in 18 of his past 21 games. Plouffe also made a nice play to his right in the fourth and threw out Grant Green, then delivered a game-tying, two-run single in the fifth.

• Pedro Florimon bunted for a hit in the third inning, giving him a hit in three consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 23-25.

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