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Updated: August 27th, 2011 3:31pm
Gardenhire says Mauer plays hurt 'more than any of these other guys'

Gardenhire says Mauer plays hurt 'more than any of these other guys'

by Nate Sandell
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MINNEAPOLIS - Still dealing with a stiff neck, Joe Mauer was absent from the Minnesota Twins' lineup for Saturday's game against the Detroit Tigers, marking the fourth straight game he has been sidelined.

With the roster already decimated by injuries, the backlash against Mauer -- who has played in only 70 games this season -- seems to have reached a season-high over the past week.

But manager Ron Gardenhire stood up for his catcher on Saturday.

"He's played hurt more than any of these other guys have, and he's not getting credit for that, which sucks," Gardenhire said. "All we're talking about is the injuries. He's not getting much credit for going out there and playing. He's banged up and beat up. It's too bad."

Gardenhire added that Mauer "doesn't talk about (injuries), and he shouldn't have to. ...

"It's on me. I'm the one who takes him out of the lineup. You can put it on me all you want to. I talk to him every day, and that's the communication. If he's beat up, you're not playing. That's the way it is. There were a lot of days I went in there and said, 'Joe, I don't have many choices.' He said, 'Whatever you need me to do.'"

Mauer came into the weekend hitting .287/.347/.349 on the season, and .295/.356/.362 since returning on June 17 from a two-month stint on the disabled list. He has been open about the fact that his legs are not 100%, particularly his back (left) leg, which may help explain his low power numbers.

"That's the hard thing about it," Gardenhire said. "You've got a batting champ and an All-Star, but everybody knows a catcher's probably going to end up with 130, 140 games. That's a lot of games. But now we're putting Joe at first base. We all know the injuries that he had earlier with his knee and everything and the rehab that he had to go through. And then we forced the issue again by catching him and playing him at first base with no breaks. It's going to take its toll again."

Gardenhire also said Mauer is "going to do some different things this winter and really get after it.

"He realizes you can't sit around and not do anything as you get older. He's going to stay after it. We talked about that. He's going to do some different things this winter and prepare a little bit more and a little bit longer and come into spring training ready to go."

Nate Sandell is a contributor to
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In this story: Ron Gardenhire, Joe Mauer