March 11, 2009

Twins Notes: Mauer, Mijares, Manny, and McCarty

  • After undergoing an MRI exam Tuesday, Joe Mauer has been diagnosed with an inflamed sacroiliac joint in his lower back. There's a sense of relief within the organization that the injury is unrelated to his December kidney surgery and the Twins have indicated that Mauer may be cleared to resume baseball activities relatively soon if he responds well to stronger medication. However, he's certainly far from out of the woods in terms of being healthy for Opening Day and the back problems could linger.

    Mauer has experienced plenty of health issues since knee surgery ruined his rookie season in 2004, but for the most part he's played and played well through injuries. He caught the second-most innings in the league last season while winning his second batting title and Jason Kendall is the only catcher in baseball to accumulate more plate appearances than Mauer since 2005. No one is going to confuse Mauer with Johnny Bench when it comes to durability, but his actual time missed is vastly overstated.

  • On the heels of Scott Baker's recent contract extension Kelly Thesier of talked to Mauer about his being eligible for free agency following the 2010 season:

    I have never really thought of playing somewhere else. This winter, there has been a lot of talk about me playing other places. I haven't really thought too hard or too long about it. I look at guys who have moved around the league, and sometimes they don't look right in a certain uniform. I'm happy playing here. Hopefully, I'll play here for a long time.

    As the Johan Santana situation unfortunately showed things can change in a hurry once free agency is in sight, so the Twins would be smart to start talking seriously with Mauer about a long-term extension sooner than later. With that said, ultimately I'd be very surprised if Mauer leaves Minnesota before the Twins are ready for him to go. As a 26-year-old catcher with a good glove and .317/.399/.457 career line he's among the 10 most valuable properties in baseball and Mauer seems content in his hometown.

  • Speaking of Thesier, she's now blogging along with every other beat writer. I'd normally tell you to go say hello, but she may not want a bunch of readers hanging out at "Kelly's Corner."
  • Part of why Jose Mijares' ascent to the majors last year was so encouraging is that he shed some weight after long being criticized for poor conditioning, but much like me with the Fat-O-Meter it sounds like he's fallen back into bad habits. Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Ron Gardenhire "seemed unconvinced" when Mijares complained of a sore ankle during a rough outing last week and instead suggested that the left-hander was simply "out of breath." Here's more from Miller:

    Would the manager like to see Mijares lose weight? He is listed at 230 pounds, and Gardenhire was reminded that his advice to the reliever at season's end last October was to come back to camp in shape.

    "He came back in a shape," Gardenhire deadpanned, but declined to say more, other than "he's got a little bit of work to do on a few things."

    Mijares had a brilliant big-league debut after being called up in mid-September, allowing just three hits while handing out zero walks in 10 appearances, but his minor-league track record was fairly mediocre prior to last year and dating all the way back to the winter meetings in mid-December the Twins have consistently indicated that sending him to the minors for additional seasoning is a very real possibility. In fact, if the Twins go with an 11-man pitching staff Triple-A becomes Mijares' likely destination.

  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors passes along some interesting Twins-related stuff about Manny Ramirez from the new book, Becoming Manny. Ramirez was taken by the Indians with the 13th overall pick in the 1991 draft, but the book suggests that scout Herb Stein "pushed the Twins" to grab him with the No. 3 pick that they instead used on David McCarty. McCarty hit .226/.275/.310 in 167 games with the Twins while Ramirez became one of the 10 greatest right-handed hitters of all time. Oh well.
  • Speaking of former Twins draft busts, Dan Serafini was the starter and winning pitcher in Italy's win over Canada that knocked Justin Morneau and company out of the World Baseball Classic. One year after selecting McCarty third overall the Twins picked 26th in the 1992 draft thanks to their World Series victory and took Serafini, who ended up posting a 5.88 ERA in 105.2 innings before being sold to the Cubs in 1999. Like his WBC teammate Nick Punto, Serafini was born and raised in California.
  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune penned a nice piece about Robert Delaney, who in three years has gone from signing with the Twins for a $500 bonus as an undrafted free agent to being on the verge of the majors as the team's No. 18 prospect. He has little chance of making the Opening Day roster after spending last year between high Single-A and Double-A, but continued success while moving up to Triple-A could get Delaney and his career 1.91 ERA to Minnesota by the All-Star break.

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