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Updated: July 2nd, 2011 3:46pm
Joe Mauer starting to rake; preparing to be thrown into fire at 1B

Joe Mauer starting to rake; preparing to be thrown into fire at 1B

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- In Friday night's 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer tallied just his third multi-hit game of the season, going 3-for-4 with three singles. It was the first time all season he had collected three hits in a game.

Mauer tallied 40 multi-hit games in 2010, including 20 games with three hits or more.

But after missing two months with bilateral leg weakness and general soreness, and after starting slowly in his return from the disabled list, it appears as if Mauer is starting to regain his form at the plate.

The former MVP is currently riding a six-game hit streak, and over that stretch he is hitting .400/.429/.500 with two doubles.

"It's getting better and better," Mauer said. "Obviously I had a good night (Friday) night, but it's one night and still trying to get back to where I need to get to. ...

"It's all a process. I mean, I came back and it's interleague, so a lot of these guys I haven't seen, or a lot of guys I'm seeing for the first time. So it's getting used to big league pitching -- movement, more around the plate, balls that start in the strike zone and dart out, balls that start outside and dart in. So it's a lot better pitching, and the speed of the game's a lot faster."

Mauer was penciled in as the designated hitter for Saturday's game, as manager Ron Gardenhire elected to keep Drew Butera paired with right-hander Carl Pavano.

Another option to keep Mauer's bat in the lineup will eventually involve shifting him to first base -- something Gardenhire said he considered strongly for Saturday's game. Mauer has been taking groundballs at first base every day during pre-game warm-ups over the past week.

At some point, he'll be thrown into the fire.

"It's probably going to just be one of those things where you go out there and do it," Mauer said. "Ideally, yeah, you'd like to maybe get in a couple spring training games and things like that, but that's not the situation it is right now. Really the only reason I'm taking the groundballs and things like that is we've had so many injuries, and if that's a way I can help out a team that's what we're going to do."

"I think it's the whole package," Mauer added when asked what his biggest trepidations are with venturing out from behind the plate.

"I haven't taken groundballs in 10 years or played first base in 10 years. So it's not something you just do overnight or something. 'Hey, I've got a good idea, let's go play center, or left.' Being a catcher and playing catcher your whole life, and training to be a big league catcher your whole life, it's not that easy just to say, 'Oh, I'm going to go play shortstop tomorrow.' It's different."

Is he worried that dabbling with another position could be a precursor to a full position change at some point?

"No. Not at all."

In the meantime, with Justin Morneau sidelined, the Twins continue to use mostly Luke Hughes and Michael Cuddyer at first base.

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.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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