By DAVID DORSEY
Special to FOXSportsNorth.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer hopes to have a brief but productive stay with one team and a successful run to a championship with another this spring training.
Mauer, a Minnesota native who spends part of his offseason at his Fort Myers home, will get less time than usual at his second home because he's playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. So Mauer, 29, will spend as much of the next two weeks as possible catching the onslaught of new starting pitchers who have been brought into the organization.
Kevin Correia, Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey are among the newcomers expected to take spots in the srotation, and Mauer is in a hurry to familiarize himself with all of them before heading to Arizona on March 1 for the WBC.
"I've got to catch a different guy every day," Mauer said Wednesday, one day after pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Myers. "The WBC is a great event," Mauer said. "It's a great opportunity, but I've got to get familiar with my guys too."If Team USA advances to the title game March 19 in San Francisco, Mauer likely will not return to the Twins until March 21, which means he'd be away from his major league team for three weeks.
For now, the three-time American League batting champion and 2009 Most Valuable Player is just happy to be working out for the next two weeks with his Twins teammates. The pitchers and catchers had their first official workout Wednesday at Lee County Sports Complex.The full squad reports Friday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday morning.
"It's good to be out in the sunshine," Mauer said. "It's good to have the uniform back on again. It's Day 1. Seeing the new guys come in, we're starting out on the right foot. It was a good first day."
Mauer is coming off an injury-free 2012 season. He hit .319 with 10 home runs, 85 RBI and eight stolen bases, playing in a career-best 147 games. His .416 on-base percentage led the American League.
The Twins, of course, would like Mauer to stay healthy again after seeing what life without him was like for much of the 2011 season. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he hopes to have an ally in preparing Mauer and sparing him for the regular season in Team USA manager Joe Torre.
"We're pretty lucky to have Mr. Torre running that ballclub," Gardenhire said of the longtime former major league manager. "He knows what it's all about. I think he'll do a really nice job of protecting our players and everybody's players and not overextending them."
Gardenhire anticipates Mauer catching five to six innings per game before moving to the designated hitter slot.
"Have fun, win some games and get my work in and get ready for the season," Mauer said. "I'm going to go out there and prepare myself the best I can.
"I don't even know how it's going to play out. I've had a couple of conversations with Joe Torre about it. We're all trying to figure out the best way to go about it. Any time you put on that uniform, USA, the adrenaline is going to be going. You just try to go out there the best you can and try to play well. We have a lot to work to do."
The Twins have an almost all-new pitching rotation, with left-handed Scott Diamond the only holdover from 2012. Mauer and Diamond both say they developed a solid rapport with each another last season.
Diamond posted a 12-9 record with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts for a 96-loss team.
"We really got to know each other and how we wanted to approach the hitters and teams," Diamond said of last season. "The second, third and fourth times going around against some of these guys, we already knew going into it how things were going to work.
"When you play with Joe Mauer, you have the chance to play to the best of your ability. I'm very fortunate."
Now at least three new Twins starting pitchers will get to have the same experience even if Mauer will have his attention diverted for a few weeks in March.