Joe Mauer made it clear on Thursday that he has no intention of ending his season early if he can kick the concussion symptoms that have knocked him out of the lineup since Aug. 20.

“Shutting it down never entered my mind,” he said before the Twins’ 3-1 loss to Kansas City. “You want to be smart about it, but I definitely want to get out there and play.”

Mauer knows that the team’s continued losing could lead to changes in the clubhouse by the time he does return.

Saturday is the trade deadline to add players who would be eligible for the postseason, and a couple Twins middle-of-the-order hitters could be elsewhere by then.

The Baltimore Orioles have claimed outfielder Josh Willingham, while first baseman Justin Morneau has been linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates, although there were no signs Thursday that a deal was close.

The Twins have until noon Friday to work out a deal with the Orioles, a team looking for some righthanded pop. Willingham, who had knee surgery in July, went 0-for-2 on Thursday and is batting .211 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI. He’s scheduled to make $7 million next season, which could be a sticking point. Baltimore also claimed first baseman-outfielder Mike Morse from Seattle and could instead work out a deal with the Mariners.

Morneau drew interest from the Orioles and Pirates before the July 31 trade deadline, but indications are that the Orioles want a righhanded hitter. The Pirates added outfielder Marlon Byrd recently but are still looking for another bat. Morneau batted .175 with four homers in July, likely scaring away some teams. He’s been better in August, batting .250 with eight homers and 20 RBI, enough to rekindle interest from the Pirates, locked in a battle with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

Indications on Thursday were that a Morneau trade was unlikely, but that can change with one phone call.

Willingham and Morneau traveled with the team to Texas after the latest loss, while Mauer went home to rest.

There was plenty of other player news on a day when the Twins fell a season-worst 18 games under .500. Samuel Deduno left the game with a shoulder injury, and outfielder Wilkin Ramirez had to be helped off the field after fouling a ball off his left shin.

Mauer met with the media on Thursday for the first time since Aug. 20 in Detroit, when he began to experience concussion symptoms. On Wednesday, he stepped onto a baseball field for the first time in over a week, even if it was to take a little walk.

“Just trying to progress each day,” he said.

Mauer spoke with a cap pulled down low, shielding his eyes from camera lights. Sensitivity to lights and sounds are a couple of the symptoms he’s been dealing with since he took foul balls off his catcher’s mask against the New York Mets.

One of Minnesota’s most precious assets once again is on an injury watch. As the Twins have learned with Morneau, Ramirez, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit, there is no set timetable for recovery from a head injury. This is the era of concussion awareness, and Mauer’s return is on hold until he gets over symptoms and passes tests.

Mauer admitted that he “would go nuts” trying to pinpoint when he will return.

“My symptoms have been getting better, which is good,” said Mauer, who revealed that he also suffered a concussion when he was around 11 years old. “Started doing some things [Wednesday]. I’m definitely conscious of how I’m feeling. I might start an exercise and take a break for a little while to see where I’m at. It’s been going good.”

Mauer might go nuts anyway — if he returns to a lineup without Willingham and/or Morneau.