KANSAS CITY, MO. – Joe Mauer turned 31 on Saturday. He celebrated with a bunt.
With the Royals defense swung around toward the right side of the infield, Mauer calmly bunted for a leadoff base hit in the fifth inning Saturday. You can argue that the $23 million man should be launching baseballs into the fountains at Kauffman Stadium, but Trevor Plouffe followed with a double and both runners scored on Kurt Suzuki’s two-out, two-strike single. The move got the Twins going in the inning.
Mauer was 1-for-5 Saturday and is batting .272 in the six games he has played on his birthday. He has one hit in each of the six games.
“I was hoping everyone would forget,’’ Mauer joked about being reminded of his age.
Everyone would like to see some power from Mauer, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had no problems with his new first baseman dropping down a bunt. It was Mauer’s 20th bunt hit, 10th-most in Twins history.
“I don’t mind it a bit,’’ Gardenhire said. “Joe is not this big home run hitter anyway. He’s an on-base guy and a on-base percentage guy and a line-drive hitter. It’s another weapon he can use. It’s leading off an inning to start a rally, that is what his job is.’’
Mauer had a chance to tie the score in the ninth with a home run against closer Greg Holland, who hit 98 miles per hour on the radar gun. But Mauer was called out on a checked-swing third strike.
Here comes Yordano
The Twins will face one of the highly touted pitching prospects in the league Sunday when they dig in against Royals righthander Yordano Ventura.
Ventura, 22, will make his first-ever appearance against the Twins. In two starts, he is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 13 innings.
Ventura, who picked up the first win of his career last week in Houston, throws major heat. He threw one pitch last season that was clocked at 102 miles per hour — the fastest pitch thrown in the majors in 2013. According to fangraphs.com, his fastball is averaging 97.2 mph this season. His changeup comes in at 87.3 mph — nearly 10 mph slower than his fastball, and faster than some fastballs thrown in the league.
“And he has a very good breaking ball, too,’’ Twins righthander Samuel Deduno said of Ventura, a fellow Dominican.
Twins hitting prospect Eddie Rosario, who is suspended for 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy, reported to extended spring training last week and has been working out daily.
Rosario received permission from the Twins to remain in Puerto Rico until early April to take care of a family matter.
Currently assigned to Class AA New Britain, Rosario can play in extended spring training games while he serves the suspension. That’s expected to conclude around May 25, depending on rainouts.
The Twins plan to use Rosario at second base and in the outfield once his season begins.
Ryan still healing
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan continues to undergo radiation treatments to remove cancer from his neck.
But those treatments are expected to end soon and, after Ryan takes time to regain his strength, he could take a scouting trip or check in on one of the Twins’ minor league affiliates.
Ryan has never forgotten his scouting roots. One thing the club will miss this year is his input on potential draft picks, as Ryan would scout college and high school games during spring training.