Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Joe Mauer set a career high by playing in his 147th game of the year for the Minnesota Twins in the team’s season finale against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
The decision to play was Mauer’s, as he’s played in all three games of the series as designated hitter. He was thrilled to set the mark after playing in just 82 games last year because of various injuries and ailments. His previous career best in games played was 146, set in 2008.
Mauer has also returned to form this year, as he enters the last game of the year hitting .320/.415/.448, with 10 homers and 85 RBIs. His .320 batting average is third in the American League, while his .415 on-base percentage leads the AL.
So he’s proved that he’s still the All-Star caliber player he was before his ’11 campaign was marred by injuries, and has missed just 15 games all year.
“I think everybody is pleased about that mark,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “I think that was one of the big question marks coming into the season, about how much we would be able to get Justin [Morneau] and him out there. And both of them have been out there most of the season.”
Mauer, 29, saw his time behind the plate drop, however, as he started 74 games at catcher while starting 42 games at designated hitter and 30 at first base. But Mauer said he wants to catch more next year, as his time at first base had a lot to do with Morneau starting the year off as DH.
When the Twins hosted a conference call with season-ticket holders on Thursday, manager Ron Gardenhire was asked by a fan about the chances of Mauer playing some third base next season. Gardenhire replied that he had thought about that being a possibility ,but confirmed on Sunday that he hasn’t talked to Mauer about playing third base.
Mauer, like I mentioned earlier, has made 30 starts at first base this season but has no professional experience at the hot corner. Mauer indicated that the possibility of playing third was news to him.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of it today,” Mauer said. “I haven’t even wrapped my head around it, so if that is the case, hopefully I have some time to prepare for it. But I think, and I’ve said this all along, I think we’re a better team when I’m behind the plate. I think I’ve shown I’ve been able to do that this year, and also go over to first. So, we’ll start thinking about that. I’m just trying to finish this year strong.”
But Mauer has spent just a little more than half of the time behind the plate, as he’s made 74 starts at catcher and a combined 69 starts at first base and designated hitter. So Mauer said he wants to make it a goal to catch even more next season. So let’s all hope he stays at his natural position of catcher because he fits best there.
The same debate runs in with the San Francisco Giants with Buster Posey and the Baltimore Orioles with Matt Wieters. As long as a team has a strong hitting catcher, the issue will always be whether to take advantage of their defense, or to preserve their bodies and legs through a position change. This will be a heated baseball topic that will likely continue until the end of time.
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