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Minnesota Twins spring training: Time well spent

Joe Mauer enjoys his stay in Fort Myers before heading to the World Baseball Classic in March

Feb. 13, 2013

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Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, left, throws back to the pitcher during Wednesday's spring training drills at the Lee County Sports Complex. For more photos and video from Wednesday's workout, visit / photos by sarah Coward/The News-Press
Twins catcher Joe Mauer eyes a high foul ball during drills Wednesday. / Sarah Coward/The News-Press


» Minnesota Twins: Pitchers and catchers are working out daily from about 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Lee County Sports Complex. Admission is free.
» Boston Red Sox: Pitchers and catchers are working out daily from about 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Fenway South complex. Admission is free. It costs $5 to enter JetBlue Park on a guided tour, which begin at the top of the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Children 12 and under are free.
Part-time Minnesota Twins groundskeeper George Toma, who has presided over all 47 Super Bowls as the head groundskeeper, discovered he had a blood clot in his leg at the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Forbidden from flying, he remains in his Leawood, Kan., home, recovering but hoping to make it to Fort Myers sometime this spring training. Toma has worked at Hammond Stadium in late February and March every year since 2002.


No sooner did Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer arrive did he begin preparing to leave.

Mauer, a part-time Fort Myers resident during the offseason, will get even less time at his second home because of the World Baseball Classic.

A first-time member of Team USA, Mauer will report with those teammates March 1. Should Team USA advance to the WBC title game Tuesday, March 19 in San Francisco, Mauer likely would not return to the Twins until Thursday, March 21, a three-week gap away from his Major League team.

For now, the Minnesota native was 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 the Lee County Sports Complex.

“It’s good to be out in the sunshine,” Mauer said. “It’s good to have the uniform back on again. It’s day one. Seeing the new guys come in, we’re starting out on the right foot. It was a good first day.”

Mauer, 29, is coming off an injury-free 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. He enters his 13th year in the Twins organization after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he hoped to have an ally in preparing Mauer 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 former New York Yankees 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 anticipated Mauer catching five to six innings per game before moving to the designated hitter slot.

Mauer said he did not know exactly what to expect from playing in the WBC.

“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’s 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.”

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The Twins have an almost all-new starting pitching rotation, with left-handed Scott Diamond the only holdover from 2012.

“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.”

Kevin Correia, Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and a number of candidates for the fifth spot will be new to Mauer. That, he said, made the first two weeks of spring training more important than normal in terms of getting to know them.

“I’ve got to catch a different guy every day,” Mauer said.

Upon returning from the WBC, Mauer said he would have a better idea of who he needed to catch more in getting ready for the regular season.

“The WBC is a great event,” Mauer said. “It’s a great opportunity, but I’ve got to get familiar with my guys too.”

Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).

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