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Updated: June 2nd, 2011 2:38pm
Joe Mauer returns to catching duty: 'I don't see any reason to change'

Joe Mauer returns to catching duty: 'I don't see any reason to change'

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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As expected, Joe Mauer got back behind the plate on Thursday.

The Minnesota Twins' ailing All-Star played three innings at catcher in an extended spring training game, his first game action at the position since he went on the disabled list on April 14.

"I'm out of breath right now," Mauer told reporters. "It was a good day (Thursday), just getting back, putting the gear on again. Caught three innings and everything felt good. Just real fatigued, I think, with the heat and obviously catching. But it felt good to get back there."

According to The News-Press, Mauer was 0-for-5 at the plate, remaining hitless in about 10 plate appearances since he began taking swings as a designated hitter on May 25. (The rules of extended spring training are flexible, allowing players to hit in any order, even if they've been removed from the field.)

The Twins have refused to reveal a timeline for Mauer's return to the big-league lineup, but manager Ron Gardenhire has made clear he will return as a catcher. So, Thursday's action was another small step in an rehabilitation process that now is approaching two months.

"I feel a lot better," said Mauer, who has been dealing with elbow, shoulder and knee problems in addition to leg weakness.

"You have strength, but also just a lot of the pain's gone, which is good. I was in a lot of pain earlier this season, and that's a reason why I had to go on the DL. But getting back there (Thursday), moving around, I felt pretty good."

Mauer plans to get action as a designated hitter on Friday, then catch again on Saturday. At some point, he's expected to begin a rehabilitation assignment, perhaps in the Florida State League, that also would yield some more meaningful at-bats.

The Twins transferred him to the 60-day disabled list on Thursday night, meaning he'll be eligible to return on June 12.

"You think about it all the time when you're on the DL," Mauer said of returning to the Twins. "You're trying to figure out how to get back and get back as soon as you can, but also stay. Obviously, (Thursday) was a big step, just putting the gear back on. I understand it's going to take a few more times doing this before I can get back up north and catch every day."

Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract extension before last season -- a deal that held value for the Twins in large part because of the offense Mauer brings behind the plate. Asked whether he'd consider switching positions, Mauer said, "I'm 28 years old, I signed eight years to play catcher and I don't see any reason to change that right now."

Meanwhile, infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) played all nine innings at shortstop. He was transferred to the 60-day disabled list on Sunday and is eligible to return on Tuesday.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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