Sunday marked reporting day for Twins spring training, the day before pitchers and catchers begin officially easing into their routines as opposed to casually easing into their routines.
So Sunday was the calm before the calm, befitting a career-changing day for the calmest of athletes.
Today, pitchers and catchers report. Joe Mauer will not be required to show up. Whenever he does, he will for the first time take the field as a former catcher.
The position change will alter Mauer’s career, and the perception of his career, and his perceived value, and what has been, to date, a Hall of Fame résumé.
What should change most are Ron Gardenhire’s afternoons. When the Twins manager felt responsible for a franchise catcher with a history of worrisome and sometimes mysterious ailments, he would wait to see how Mauer felt each afternoon before writing out a lineup. ‘‘I’ll check with Joe,’’ became a refrain.
As a manager responsible for a 30-year-old star in his prime with no obvious ailments other than the lingering effects of concussions that forced the move to first base, Gardenhire’s refrain should change. Every day, he should write down a lineup before he sees Mauer, then tell everyone, ‘‘Joe’s in.’’
As a catcher, Mauer proved durable enough during most seasons. As a rookie, a knee injury limited him to 35 games. In 2011, the incorrectly termed ‘‘bilateral leg weakness’’ limited him to 82 games. In 2007 and 2013, other ailments made him more of a question mark than a fixture on the lineup card.
In 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 he played anywhere from 131 to 147 games, a reasonable workload for a catcher carrying 230 pounds and responsible for offensive production.
Now that he is a first baseman, the Twins should view his job differently, and so should he. As a gifted athlete who will easily adapt to first base, and who will enjoy fresher legs and a shorter to-do list every day, Mauer should challenge himself.
He should ask to play in 162 games. Only a serious injury should keep him from that goal.
If Mauer needs a day to ‘‘get off his feet,’’ as the saying goes in the big leagues, he can serve as the designated hitter.
Mauer is making $23 million a year. Until Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano realize their promise in the majors, Mauer will continue to easily be the Twins’ best player.
Now that his value will not be determined by him being one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball history, his value will be determined almost exclusively by his offensive production.
The last time Mauer played baseball with fresh legs was at the beginning of the 2009 season. Injuries kept him from catching in spring training, and when he joined the team May 1, he was as healthy and well-rested as he ever could be for his first at-bat of the season, and that’s the season he hit a career-high 28 home runs and won the American League MVP award.
The dimensions of Target Field would have turned many of his 2009 home runs into doubles or long outs, but in 2014, with legs unmarked by shinguards and foul tips, he should enjoy another peak season.
Last year, Mauer played 75 games as a catcher and 37 as a first baseman or DH. Given frequent chances to rest his legs, he produced his highest slugging percentage since his MVP season, and the third highest of his career, counting seasons in which he played at least 100 games.
If Mauer has any doubts about playing 162 games, he can call his friend Justin Morneau. In his prime, Morneau prided himself on taking the field every day. In 2006 and 2007, he played in 157 games. In 2008, he played in 163, including the one-game playoff to determine the division championship against the White Sox.
Mauer is the de facto leader of a desperate franchise. He will never rattle the lockers with an inspirational speech, nor does he need to. He can lead, and earn his keep, by playing every day.
|Minnesota||17||4th Qtr 12:40|
|Baltimore||7||3rd Qtr 7:40|
|Detroit||10||4th Qtr 10:27|
|Cleveland||6||4th Qtr 11:22|
|Atlanta||20||4th Qtr 9:38|
|Green Bay||13||4th Qtr 3:33|
|Kansas City||9||4th Qtr 10:19|
|New England||17||4th Qtr 7:53|
|NY Giants||3:05 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|New York||2:30 PM|
|LA Lakers||5:00 PM|
|New Orleans||6:00 PM|
|Holy Cross||35||2nd Half 8:13|
|Southern Miss||40||2nd Half 6:28|
|Western Carolina||44||2nd Half 10:46|
|Creighton||37||2nd Half 9:55|
|Maryland||54||2nd Half 8:57|
|Cornell||45||2nd Half 11:21|
|Vermont||40||2nd Half 7:35|
|Loyola-Maryland||40||2nd Half 7:50|
|Reinhardt||53||2nd Half 11:39|
|Ark-Little Rock||44||2nd Half 5:29|
|TX-Pan American||51||2nd Half 9:44|
|Alabama State||57||2nd Half 13:06|
|FIU||38||2nd Half 15:54|
|Bryant||9||1st Half 8:28|
|Austin Peay||12||1st Half 7:46|
|Tennessee St||5||1st Half 12:10|
|South Dakota||19||1st Half 9:45|
|Northern Ariz||3:00 PM|
|SD Christian||3:00 PM|
|UC Irvine||3:30 PM|
|Seton Hall||5:00 PM|
|Appalachian St||5:30 PM|
|North Dakota St||6:00 PM|
|San Jose St||6:00 PM|
|Alcorn State||8:00 PM|
|Sacramento St||9:00 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Illinois||12/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Rutgers||12/26/14 3:30 PM|
|NC State||12/26/14 7:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||12/27/14 12:00 PM|
|Duke||12/27/14 1:10 PM|
|(15) Arizona State|
|Miami-Florida||12/27/14 3:00 PM|
|Boston College||12/27/14 3:30 PM|
|(25) Nebraska||12/27/14 7:00 PM|
|(1) South Carolina||84|
|Mount St Marys||49|
|William & Mary||51|
|South Dakota St||64||FINAL|
|(5) Notre Dame||64|
|(3) Texas||62||2nd Half 4:05|
|(4) Texas A&M||61|
|South Florida||45||2nd Half 15:51|
|Sam Houston St||36||2nd Half 0:33|
|Evansville||37||2nd Half 9:37|
|(14) Maryland||92||2nd Half 7:50|
|Mercer||50||2nd Half 10:59|
|Coll of Charleston||58|
|NC A&T||21||2nd Half 15:34|
|Princeton||75||2nd Half 6:48|
|Eastern Illinois||61||2nd Half 4:55|
|Rider||52||2nd Half 9:29|
|SC State||40||2nd Half 7:02|
|Fairfield||44||2nd Half 10:00|
|Richmond||61||2nd Half 6:24|
|Cleveland State||63||2nd Half 6:25|
|Kent State||49||2nd Half 10:44|
|South Alabama||35||2nd Half 4:05|
|Saint Peters||29||2nd Half 5:47|
|Youngstown St||37||2nd Half 7:47|
|NJIT||33||2nd Half 13:34|
|Davidson||22||2nd Half 11:59|
|Indiana State||31||2nd Half|
|Southern U||20||2nd Half|
|Wright State||16||2nd Half 20:00|
|(19) Oklahoma St||15||1st Half 7:35|
|Houston||17||1st Half 6:37|
|Ark-Little Rock||17||1st Half 7:46|
|Dayton||14||1st Half 9:51|
|Northern Ariz||13||1st Half 8:20|
|UNC-Asheville||11||1st Half 10:52|
|North Dakota||12||1st Half 11:40|
|Western Ill||14||1st Half 10:00|
|Elon||12||1st Half 11:49|
|(6) North Carolina||22|
|Ball State||7||1st Half 11:38|
|(8) Kentucky||12||1st Half 9:15|
|New Orleans||6||1st Half 9:03|
|Chicago State||11||1st Half 9:54|
|Bowling Green||18||1st Half 11:48|
|Ill-Springfield||6||1st Half 15:57|
|SE Missouri St||6|
|Northern Ill||10||1st Half 7:40|
|(23) Iowa||18||1st Half 11:18|
|Central Michigan||2:30 PM|
|Western Carolina||2:30 PM|
|Cal Poly||3:00 PM|
|No Dakota State||3:00 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Idaho State||3:00 PM|
|(18) Michigan State||3:00 PM|
|Fresno State||4:00 PM|
|St Francis-PA||4:00 PM|
|(10) Louisville||4:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State|