WASHINGTON – Joe Mauer worked the count in his second at-bat Saturday, turning a 1-2 hole into a 3-2 opportunity. Then Nationals righthander Joe Ross left a slider hanging over the outside corner, and Mauer caught it as it crossed the plate. The ball carried deep to left-center and disappeared into the Twins bullpen, a three-run homer that turned a two-run deficit into a one-run lead.
Not a bad way to close the exhibition season.
"It felt good," Mauer said of his second home run of the spring, which came in an 8-8 tie. "I wish it would have been my first swing of the regular season, so it counted."
Still, it was an indication that the Twins' most experienced and highest-paid player enters the season feeling as healthy as a 33-year-old concussion victim possibly can. Mauer said he has felt none of the vague symptoms that have occasionally plagued him for the past couple of seasons.
Perhaps it has something to do with the sunglasses he now wears in bright sunlight. But Mauer said he wanted to correct a misconception about that, too.
"It's not as big [as factor] as everybody might think. It's a small part of the things I've been doing this offseason to get where I'm at," the first baseman said. "I hope people don't dwell on whether I'm wearing sunglasses or not; I've been working hard in a lot of other areas to make sure I'm OK, too."
Mauer said the sunglasses simply help him avoid straining his eyes, which he believes has triggered occasional bouts of blurred vision.
"Just like when any average person would wear sunglasses — you wear them because it's a little bright, so you don't have to stress your eyes as much," said Mauer, who didn't wear the sunglasses during his first at-bat because of heavy cloud cover that eventually burned off. "It's nothing more. It was just a little bright out there."
Major league detour
Like his Twins teammates, Darin Mastroianni was packed to travel after Saturday's game. But unlike most of them, he's not headed to Baltimore.
"It's a little weird to be going back to Fort Myers," the outfielder said, "but I'm glad they brought me along."
Mastroianni was one of 10 players plucked from the Twins system and invited to play the late innings of the two games at Nationals Park. Mastroianni, assigned to Class AAA Rochester a week ago, got into both games, walked on Saturday and stole his eighth base of the spring.
"It's been a really fun spring," said Mastroianni, who led the Twins in hitting by going 15-for-37 (.405). "I showed myself something this spring, that I'm healthy again. So it's been great to be in a major league park again."
Trevor Hildenberger thought so, too, after being handed a situation he could hardly imagine. The Class A sidearmer was brought into Friday's game to face 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper. First pitch, Harper doubled to center.
"It was fun facing that guy as my first hitter. Two outs, no one on, I'm going to challenge him," said Hildenberger, who then retired Ryan Zimmerman on two pitches to end the inning. "I lost that challenge, but I was happy I was out there throwing strikes."
• With two stolen bases Saturday, Danny Santana set a record for spring-training steals by a Twin with nine, one more than Alex Cole in 1994 and Mastroianni this year.
• Lefthander Aaron Thompson, who posted a 2.20 ERA through his first 17 relief appearances last year, was released, General Manager Terry Ryan said.