The Twins have played 18 games this year, and Joe Mauer has been in the starting lineup for every single one. That's right – you might not have noticed, but the embattled catcher has not taken a day off this season after missing half of the 2011 campaign due to various ailments.
This is the longest Mauer has even gone into a season without stopping to rest, and it's not like the early schedule has been particularly forgiving, with only one day off and plenty of travel. Granted, Mauer has been catching much less frequently than normal -- he's been behind the plate for only 10 games -- but nevertheless, this iron man stands in stark contrast to the guy who last year drew the ire of media, fans and reportedly even some teammates for his inability or unwillingness to stay on the field.
It seems that No. 7 is making a statement.
Fortunately, his bat is starting to back up that message. Mauer stumbled out to a slow start, batting .242 with a .675 OPS and nearly as many GIDP (4) as RBI (5) through Minnesota's first nine games. Since the start of the Yankees series, however, Mauer is hitting .382/.475/.471 with three doubles and five walks. He's stopped putting everything on the ground and he's even stolen a couple bases – an indication that his legs are feeling pretty good. He's struck out just three times in his past 46 plate appearances.
Mauer's overall production hasn't been extraordinary, but it's extremely encouraging to see him pushing his batting average up over .300 and consistently taking quality at-bats. April is historically one of his quieter months, so if he can continue to heat up as the weather does the same, he could find himself once again grouped with the league's top hitters.
The Twins have already had plenty of things go wrong this year, but getting Mauer back on track was always the top priority. It appears that he's well on his way, and Ron Gardenhire deserves credit for moving him around and keeping him fresh enough to take the field each day.
Check out Twins Daily today for the following stories:
* Parker asks what happened to all of Danny Valencia's swagger.
* Seth recaps Tuesday night's minor-league action.
* Cody Christie notes a rise in Brian Duensing's velocity in the bullpen.
* Twins Fan From Afar highlights a major comeback in New Britain.