Souhan: Back injury might be continuing to bother Mauer

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2014 - 11:49 AM
hide

Twins first baseman Joe Mauer hinted Sunday that the back injury that cost him five games in early May was serious and lingering.

Photo: Carlos Osorio, ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Joe Mauer rarely admits to frustration, but seven weeks into the season, he has looked less than comfortable at first base, hasn’t driven the ball with regularity or authority and is seeing his line drives consumed by opponents’ defensive shifts.

“That left fielder is getting pretty aggressive with where he plays me,” Mauer said. “That’s been tough.”

Following the Twins’ 6-2 loss to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners on Sunday, the Twins star is hitting .283 with a .373 on-base percentage and a .352 slugging percentage. His career numbers entering this season in those categories: .323, .405 and .468.

This would be a good time to question Mauer’s worth, if it weren’t for one recent development:

Mauer injured his back. Other than a concussion, there might be no more insidious injury for a professional athlete, especially one expected to play every day, than a bad back. Late Sunday afternoon, Mauer, in his usual understated manner, hinted that the back injury that cost him five games in early May was serious and lingering.

“It grabbed,” Mauer said. “Every sneeze, every movement, right away, it grabbed. I’d be trying to get ready for the game, and every time my heel hit the ground, it was shooting pain. I had to calm it down. I was hoping I could get back in the lineup a little sooner, but I was able to get back in there after a couple of days, and I haven’t had any problems since.”

When Mauer said, “It grabbed,” I winced. When my back has “grabbed,” I have found myself taking two hours to get out of bed, while screaming. I have been relegated to sleeping on the floor and gobbling painkillers. A severe back injury can prevent you from tying your shoes, not to mention hitting a big-league fastball.

“It’s funny,” Mauer said. “When it happens, there are so many things that are trying to protect that area. You’re working on your back but you’re also working on other things. Getting adjustments and treatments. I feel we have a good plan going forward.

“It’s baseball, too. You don’t have a lot of time to recover. You do a lot of maintenance stuff before and after games, not just the back but the whole package.”

Mauer might need a medical liaison.

His reputation among many Twin Cities sports fans was damaged when the phrase “bilateral leg weakness” was attached to his ailments in 2011. He never had anything like “bilateral leg weakness,” nor did he ever speak that phrase, but his unwillingness or inability to explain the injury that derailed that season left him looking reluctant.

His latest injury was described as “back spasms.” “Spasms” connotes a fluttering muscle. When Mauer said his back “grabbed,” he was describing sharp, searing, debilitating pain. Yes, that can be described as a muscle “spasm,” but that word does not communicate severity.

“I’m starting to feel better,” he said. “I was a little under the weather all week. I’m getting back in the weight room for the first time since it happened, so that felt good.”

The Twins hoped that Mauer’s transition to first base would make him more durable and productive. Neither has happened yet. He is such a gifted athlete that the Twins expected him to quickly become a Gold Glove-caliber fielder. Perhaps because of the back injury, Mauer doesn’t look as smooth as expected.

The Twins led 2-1 Sunday when starter Ricky Nolasco got Mariners speedster James Jones to hit a sharp grounder right at Mauer. Mauer bobbled it, barehanded it, then looked to flip to Nolasco. Nolasco didn’t cover the base.

That led to a two-run inning and to Nolasco’s early departure, and it might have cost the Twins the game. “Ricky said he was a little slow getting over,” Mauer said. “The guy ended up scoring, so that hurt us in the end. He said, ‘That was my bad, I should have been over there.’ We’ve got to make that play.”

Mauer has not looked, or swung the bat, like himself.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most accurate. An injured back is the simplest explanation.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close