Bloomington’s Kent Hrbek turned 34 on May 21, 1994. He was on the Twins’ disabled list. He returned in June and announced in early August that he would retire at season’s end. That season came to an abrupt end when the players went on strike after the games of Aug. 11.
Stillwater’s Glen Perkins turned 34 on March 2. He continues to rehab in Fort Myers, Fla., and could pitch again this season. Perkins also said earlier that he probably will quit if the Twins don’t pick up his option ($6.5 million) for 2018, and he realizes there is little chance of that.
St. Paul’s Joe Mauer will turn 34 on Wednesday. More and more, that birthday appears to be the jumping-off point for Minnesota natives who have been well-honored lifers for the Twins.
The difference in Joe’s case is he has $23 million guaranteed for 2018, while Hrbek was at the end of his contract in 1994 and Perkins can be bought out for $700,000 in 2018.
Over the previous two seasons, Mauer was swinging with authority in exhibitions and followed with strong Aprils, leading to optimistic media reports asking, “Is that the old Joe we’re seeing?’’
The answer was, “Not even close.’’
Mauer batted .256 with 98 strikeouts from May 1 to season’s end in 2015, and batted .249 with 84 strikeouts after May 1 in 2016. The Old Joe never had more than 64 strikeouts, and his batting averages ranged from .293 to .365 in his first seven seasons (2004 to ’10).
There were no optimistic sightings of the Old Joe reported from Fort Myers during the 2017 exhibition schedule. It wasn’t caution, since “Joe is back’’ reports make for good space fillers in March.
This spring, hitting the ball hard was very much an exception for Mauer, and there has been almost none of that to start the season. It’s early, but early was when we had optimism for Joe the previous two years.
He was at .189 with no extra-base hits through Saturday. You’d say “happy birthday” to Joe, but 34ths haven’t been fulfilling milestones for hometown boys and Twins lifers.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Minnesota lefties with a Twins impact:
• Dick Stigman, Nimrod. He pitched four (1962 to ’65) of seven seasons for Twins; outstanding as spot starter and long reliever.
• Tom Burgmeier, St. Cloud. He was with Twins for four (1974 to ’77) of his 17 seasons. Gene Mauch pitched him 115 ⅓ innings as the bullpen lefty in 1976.
• Jerry Koosman, Appleton. One of the aces of 1969 Miracle Mets, “Koos’’ had two full seasons (1979 and ’80) for Twins and was 36-26 for non-contending teams.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.