World Baseball Classic adds new twist for Mauer
Catcher preparing to play for Team USA for first time in career
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For a veteran catcher such as Joe Mauer, who is participating in his 12th Spring Training with the Twins, the daily routines of spring can often get monotonous.
But Mauer will be experiencing something new this year, because he's set to participate in the World Baseball Classic for the first time.
So this spring is all about striking the right balance between trying to get ready for Team USA's games in mid-March and for Minnesota's Opening Day against the Tigers on April 1.
But Mauer, who took part in the club's first day of official workouts between pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, is looking forward to that challenge.
"It's my first time doing it so I'll have to prepare myself for playing in those games while also trying to get ready for April 1 as well," Mauer said."I'm going to try to be as ready as I can. I think in past World Baseball Classics, they've used like five or six pitchers, so it's not like everyone is in mid-season form or anything. But I'm going to go out there and be prepared as best as I can and keep in mind that April 1 is when we get going."
Mauer is set to leave the club's Spring Training complex in Florida on March 3 to head to Arizona, where Team USA will train at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick before playing three straight games from March 8-10 against Mexico, Canada and Italy. If Team USA advances from there, it will head to Miami for the second round with a chance to play in the semifinals and final in San Francisco.
With just three catchers on the roster -- Mauer's set to be joined by the Blue Jays' J.P. Arencibia and the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy -- there's a chance he'll have to catch back-to-back days earlier than usual in spring.
But Team USA manager Joe Torre has already talked to Mauer to ease those concerns about getting overworked too early in spring, and the Twins feel there will be a sufficient plan in place by the time Mauer leaves for Arizona.
"We're pretty lucky to have Mr. Torre running that team," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's managed and he understands what it is all about. I think he will do a nice job of protecting our players and everyone's players and not over-extending them because it's early. No matter how much we can give them here it is still going to be early."
So while Mauer's usual routine will certainly be different this spring, he said he didn't prepare himself any differently this offseason.
He said he had a fairly normal offseason, since he's not coming off any injuries from last season, which was a nice change of pace considering the knee injury that plagued him before the 2011 season and his battle with pneumonia after that season.
And it helps knowing that he returned to form in '12 by hitting .319 and leading the American League with a .416 on-base percentage in a career-high 147 games. He's made it known he wants to catch more games -- he caught just 74 last year -- and will work with Gardenhire to make that a possibility during the season.
"I feel good coming into this camp," Mauer said. "I'm in a good place right now."
But Mauer is also hoping the Twins find a way to shake off their struggles from the last two seasons and get back to their winning ways. He's excited to work with the new pitching additions from the offseason such as Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden, as well as top pitching prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.
His work with the new starters will be cut short in the spring because of the Classic, but he said it shouldn't affect his rapport with any pitchers by the time the regular season starts.
Mauer added that the first day of Spring Training went smoothly while catching a few bullpens and that Gardenhire and the rest of his coaching staff held their first official meeting early Wednesday with a simple message.
"In the meetings we had today, it was just about paying attention to the little things," Mauer said. "The little things are what made us successful over the years and that's how we've beat good teams. We have a lot of new faces in here so we just wanted to let them know how it works around here."