It was going to happen eventually, and Thursday was the day.
Twins manager Paul Molitor filled out his first lineup card without Joe Mauer’s name on it, the first time in 29 games that has occurred.
“Joe has been on my radar for a while to give a day,” Molitor said. “He’s played or DH’d for us every day so far.”
Mauer’s availability has been an issue in recent years, but all he dealt with last season was an oblique strain that cost him six weeks. He went into the offseason in good health, so rather than having to recover from some ailment, he was able to condition the way he wanted to. Mauer reported to spring training sounding as optimistic in years about his health.
Mauer is batting .287 with no homers and is tied for second on the team with 14 RBI. The lack of power is a disappointment, but he is batting .387 with runners in scoring position.
Still, one St. Paul icon benched another Thursday.
“That’s been a real positive sign for us,” Molitor said of Mauer’s start to 2015. “His health and his production.”
Mauer was the only Twins player to have started every game this season.
“Paul is pretty good about picking his spots [to rest players],” Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. “He looks ahead and is very prepared and organized.”
On a roll
Casey Fien seemed to be the only reliever in the Twins bullpen equipped to handle eighth-inning setup duties. But righthander Blaine Boyer is showing otherwise.
He gave up a single with two outs in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 6-5 victory over Oakland and was replaced by Glen Perkins, but Boyer still has thrown 11⅔ scoreless innings. After a rocky start to the year, Boyer said he worked with bullpen coach Eddie Guardado on some mechanical changes and got his timing back.
It’s a good time for that to happen, with Fien recovering from a sore shoulder. Boyer’s voice raised excitedly when asked if he likes getting chances in the eighth inning.
“Heck yeah,” he said. “I want in there, man. But everyone in this bullpen wants in there, which is awesome.”
When he was cut in spring training, Ryan Pressly was told to work on his command of his fastball. His secondary stuff was fine.
In 4⅔ innings since being called up, Pressly has given up no runs on two hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. The righthander is getting ahead in counts and finishing off hitters with either a 94-miles-per-hour fastball or curveball.
“He looks like a different man compared to spring training,” Antony said. “He’s got confidence and command of that curveball. He’s letting the fastball go. He’s been very good.”
The Twins wanted to get the ball from the first pitch thrown to Eddie Rosario on Wednesday when he made his major league debut. Rosario foiled their plans by blasting the ball into the left-field seats — becoming only the 29th player to hit a home run on the first pitch of his career.
Undeterred, the Twins had an official go out to the stands and exchange an autographed helmet and bat for the baseball. And the fan who caught the ball got to meet Rosario after the game.
• Injured righthander Tim Stauffer (right intercostal) continues to make progress toward throwing in the bullpen.
• Fien (shoulder) has been cleared to begin a throwing program but was told not to begin Thursday. He, along with Stauffer, will remain in town during the Twins’ six-game road trip to Cleveland and Detroit.