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Updated: March 12th, 2011 10:32am
Joe Mauer catches first bullpen session; opening day 'never a doubt'

Joe Mauer catches first bullpen session; opening day 'never a doubt'

by Phil Mackey
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer caught his first bullpen session of the spring on Saturday since undergoing offseason knee surgery.

A small task, but a big step.

With the full-squad traveling to Jupiter for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mauer caught right-hander Nick Blackburn at Hammond Stadium for approximately 15 minutes. Left-handed first baseman Chris Parmelee stood in the batter's box.

"I'm still getting my strength back," Mauer said. "First time I've been down there, so I'm not game-ready by any means right now, but I'm working towards it.

"The knees feel good. It felt better than I thought it would. Just excited to see what happens the next few days."

Mauer, who recently finished his third, and last, round of lubricant injections, has been taking live batting practice and facing live pitching over the past three weeks, but Saturday was the first time he sat down in a crouch.

The next step could be finding at-bats as a designated hitter in an upcoming spring-training game.

"I think we're getting closer," Mauer said. "I think this last week was definitely some big strides. When I first reported to camp, I was a mess ... But I feel pretty good. I feel like I'm using my leg and even in hitting, I feel like I'm using more of my back leg where I wasn't able to use that a whole lot last year.

Mauer said the recovery process has taken slightly longer than he had hoped, but being ready for opening day was "never in doubt."

"Like anything I wish I was out there playing the first game of spring. But I've got to be smart about it and I think we've done that."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Nick Blackburn, Joe Mauer