Updated: August 6th, 2011 7:34pm
As logjam builds, Mauer 'absolutely' will continue to play first base

As logjam builds, Mauer 'absolutely' will continue to play first base

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- On Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer made his 10th start of the season at first base -- a pool he first dipped his toes into on July 7.

Since making that plunge, Mauer has started 15 games at catcher, two games at DH and 10 games at first base, including three in a row as of Saturday night.

Moving over to first base on occasion has allowed Mauer -- who by all accounts is still battling through quite a bit of leg and general soreness -- to remain in the lineup without taxing his body behind the plate every night.

But starting soon, manager Ron Gardenhire might have to get creative.

With regular first baseman Justin Morneau progressing well on a Triple-A rehab assignment, Mauer's options outside of donning the catcher's gear could be limited.

"Well, we have Morneau as our future at first base," Gardenhire said. "You're going to have to find something else (for Mauer)."

Assuming Morneau stays healthy, which isn't necessarily a given, Gardenhire pointed out the obvious -- "I mean, how many times are you going to be able to play Mauer at first base with Morneau there? ...

"You've got Mauer, you've got (Jason) Kubel, you've got (Michael) Cuddyer, and you've got Delmon Young, and (Denard) Span-man, and (Ben) Revere, so there's going to be a situation that you're going to have to cope with here, once Morneau gets back especially, trying to get bats in the lineup. ... Then Alexi (Casilla) comes back at second base, you're not going to put Cuddy at second."

Gardenhire even joked about possibly putting Cuddyer at shortstop, until a reporter pointed out Cuddyer's 61 errors at the position in A-ball back in 1999.

"I made 47 one year," Gardenhire said. "That's nothing."

Joking aside, regardless of what the Twins' roster looks like the rest of this year or next, all parties involved have come to the conclusion that Mauer will spent plenty of time out from behind home plate.

"No doubt," Gardenhire said. "Absolutely. It's the best of both worlds, and I think Joe sees that," Gardenhire said. "There's times like right now where he's a little beat-up. I know he doesn't say it to you guys, but we talk about it a little differently than he would talk to you about it. He understands that and sees it, and it is a good route."

Defensively, Mauer has yet to commit an error at first base in more than 90 chances, and he has shown quick instincts and wide range. Some within the organization believe he could play elsewhere on defense as well if needed.

"(Saturday) would be a night, really, when he wouldn't be able to catch," Gardenhire said. "He's a little sore, and first base is the only option. Or DH. And he sees that. So if we can put him out there and keep him from squatting and everything for a couple days, it helps immensely. Him realizing that will help next year and down the road, because it is a load off your legs."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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