Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/24/12

Joe Mauer was cool to the idea of playing first base when the Minnesota Twins initially gave him time there last season as a way of keeping the catcher in the lineup while preserving his legs.

But after he started there for the 26th time this year Monday night, Mauer has now started more games this season as a first baseman or a DH than he has as a catcher. The three-time batting champ concedes it's helped keep him in the lineup.

He is hitting .332 this season, made his first All-Star team since 2010 and has started 85 of the Twins' 96 games. Mauer, who went 0-for-5 Monday in Minnesota's 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox, is on pace to play a career-high 148 games.

"If I was just strictly a catcher, I probably wouldn't have played as much," Mauer told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Monday. "The only games I've sat out is because of injury. Definitely, going over to first and DH'ing has helped me get out there more."

The former AL MVP is back from a nightmarish 2011 season in which he played just 82 games because of a variety of ailments. Fans questioned how badly Mauer wanted to be on the field, but this season, the criticism has started to wane.

Mauer, who is second in the AL in batting average and leads the league in on-base percentage, said, "This is the best I've felt in a while."

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