Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  By TYLER MASON  |  Last updated 8/3/13
MINNEAPOLIS -- In a one-run game -- especially one that lasts 13 innings -- every play can make a difference. When Twins catcher Joe Mauer threw out Houston's Brandon Barnes at second base in the top of the seventh inning Friday night, it may not have seemed like a game-changing play at the time. Minnesota trailed 2-0 at that point and still had plenty of work to do to get back into the game. As it turned out, though, the Twins sent the game to extras before winning in the 13th inning. Had Barnes instead been on second base with nobody out, there's no telling what that run might have meant for the Astros. "That might be the one run that wins us the game," said Terry Steinbach, the Twins' bench coach and former catcher. "If we can throw a guy out in the second inning and all of a sudden it's the ninth inning and we win by one, maybe it was that runner that we threw out that saved that game." Last season, Mauer threw out just 14 percent of potential base stealers, easily the lowest rate of his career. Not all of it had to do with Mauer, however. While a strong and accurate throw to the base is important, the timing of the pitcher on the mound and his ability to get the ball to home plate quickly may be equally as essential. That was often a problem for Twins pitchers last year, who took far too long to deliver the ball to the plate. That left Mauer with little chance at gunning down runners, even with a strong and precise throw. "Our staff talked about it and has been doing a great job this year paying attention to those guys," Mauer said. "I think the attempts are probably way down, which is an indicator of that. I think it all starts with the pitcher, and we've got to do our job behind the plate and the middle infielders have to do their job, too." Throwing out runners is really a three-man job, and the middle infielders often go overlooked in this play. But the middle infield duo of shortstop Pedro Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier have done their part this year in reacting to the play and being in prime position to receive the throw from Mauer. Now that the Twins have emphasized the importance of the pitchers firing to home quicker when there's a runner on base, Mauer's numbers have improved. Entering Saturday's game, he has thrown out 16 potential base stealers out of 33 attempts. That rate of 48 percent of runners thrown out is tops among all qualified American League catchers. It also is the second-highest percentage of Mauer's career; he nabbed 53 percent of base runners (24 of 45) back in 2006. "I think Joe feels a lot better this year. He's stronger under his legs," Steinbach said. "I think throwing guys out, specifically from the catcher's standpoint, starts with the legs. You want to have quick feet. He's always had a good arm and a pretty quick release. I think last year with the ailments that he had, he wasn't able to utilize that. This year he's back healthy. You can see the quick feet. You see him being quick to second." Steinbach, in his first year on manager Ron Gardenhire's staff, has worked with Mauer and the other catchers throughout the season on the mechanics of throwing to second base. But Steinbach has also helped the catchers communicate with the pitchers on making sure they keep base runners in check. Part of that may be the pitcher mixing up his timing on the mound. On one pitch, the pitcher may hold the ball longer than usual; the next pitch, he may snap a throw over to first base as soon as he comes set on the mound. During games, Steinbach is relaying these signs to Mauer, but he's also seen the catchers and pitchers start to do these things on their own. "It's been really nice to have Terry here every day," Mauer said. "We did a lot of work down in spring training with him in past years, but to have him here every day (keeps) everybody accountable, which is good. Just top to bottom, we've all done a better job of that." Mauer, a three-time batting champion and six-time All-Star, is often lauded for his offense. But he takes just as much pride in the defensive part of the game -- blocking balls in the dirt, calling pitches, and, of course, throwing out base runners. After a down year in 2012, Mauer is once again showing he has one of baseball's best arms behind the plate. "There's some pretty good arms in the league," Gardenhire said. "Guys can throw a little bit, and Joe's one of them. If they give him a chance he'll throw them out." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

U.S. Senator “appalled” by Bettman’s stance on concussions

Team USA’s Opening Ceremony uniforms look a little treasonous

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Former NFL LB Armstrong, wife reportedly killed by 16-year-old son

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again


Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio

Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

McClain does not show up for Cowboys’ training camp

Andre Johnson agrees to two-year deal with Titans

WATCH: Bautista bat flip will be available as NHL 17 celebration

Former USMNT, current MLS forward Davies battled cancer, in remission

The definitive guide to U.S. Men's Basketball at Rio 2016

Tony Romo training camp picture leads to fat jokes, concern

Matt Cullen’s family eats cereal out of the Stanley Cup

Texas A&M suspends coaches for sexist slideshow

10 most dangerous college football defenders in 2016

Is it time to start taking West Ham seriously?

Storyline from 'Ballers' plays out in Cowboys preseason camp

Texas A&M creates a very sexist version of their fight song for women

Brown, Marshall are apparently serious about their car bet

Lacy, Starks could split carries to start season

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker