The great thing about Joe Mauer’s position change, Ron Gardenhire said before Sunday’s game, was how it was keeping the three-time batting champion in the lineup every day.
Whoops. Less than an hour after the Twins manager spoke those words, Mauer’s back began to ache.
The catcher-turned-first baseman, who has been in the starting lineup for all 29 games this season, suffered back spasms during batting practice, tried to play anyway, but left after the second inning, unable to move freely when the pain wouldn’t dissipate.
“I tried to keep getting it loose, but just trying to loosen it was aggravating it,” Mauer said. “I knew before first pitch it was going to be a tough day, and it kept getting worse.”
But he received treatment throughout the game, and “I feel a lot better,” he said after the 5-2 victory over Baltimore. “Hopefully, it’s not too long and I can get out there soon.”
As soon as Monday at Cleveland? “I hope so,” he said. “We’ll see — I’ll get a good night’s rest, get some treatment on it, and see how it feels tomorrow.”
Not quite over
Gardenhire was shaking hands with Joe Vavra. Glen Perkins was fist-bumping Kurt Suzuki. All of a sudden, everybody had a little more work to do.
Perkins got Steve Pearce to hit a lazy pop fly to right field for what appeared to be the final out. But the ball hit the heel of right fielder Chris Herrmann’s glove and bounced to the ground.
“I’m just glad we got past that,” Gardenhire said. “Perkins got more work; [we’ve] been saying he needed it,” he joked.
Herrmann made no excuses, refused to cite the sun or the wind. “I had two hands up, and it just popped out of my glove. I don’t know what happened,” said the catcher-turned-outfielder, who came in to the game to replace Mauer, with Chris Colabello moving from right field to first. “I like to think I’m a pretty good outfielder, so stuff like that is pretty embarrassing.”
It was briefly alarming, too, since Jonathan Schoop followed with a single, bringing the tying run to the plate. But Perkins got Nick Markakis to look at strike three, much to Herrmann’s relief.
“I wasn’t mad — I got a strikeout out of it,” Perkins said with a laugh.
Herrmann’s teammates kidded him about the error, he said, but most of them said they know it can happen to anyone. “It’s just baseball,” he said.
Room to run
Brian Dozier moved into a tie for the AL stolen-base lead by swiping third in the fifth inning, but it was mostly a gift, he said. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy swung to the right side of second base when Jason Kubel came to the plate, and third baseman Manny Machado moved too far into the shortstop hole.
“He shifted too much. I could have reached out and touched him,” said Dozier, who suddenly broke to third and outraced Machado to the bag, easily stealing his 11th base. “You don’t play that far over. You’re supposed to hang out a little closer to the bag to prevent that. I saw a chance, so you might as well take it.”
• Eduardo Nunez, who missed 11 of 12 games at Class AAA Rochester because of a strained left oblique, had three hits and two RBI Sunday. Had Nunez been healthy, Antony said he likely would have been called up this weekend rather than rookie Danny Santana. Alex Meyer’s scoreless inning streak ended at 15 innings during the Red Wings game.
• Outfielders Aaron Hicks and Josh Willingham did not accompany the Twins on their flight to Cleveland, but Antony said Hicks could join the team on the road if he is cleared by team doctors. Hicks is eligible to come off the seven-day concussion list Friday.