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Updated: January 29th, 2012 10:18am
Joe Mauer says 'this is the best I've felt in a long time'

Joe Mauer says 'this is the best I've felt in a long time'

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- At this time last season, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer -- less than two months removed from knee surgery -- had serious doubts about whether he'd be ready for opening day.

Mauer never made those doubts known publicly, possibly even ignoring them himself, and instead pushed as hard as he could during spring training to make it back for the Twins' opening series in Toronto.

It was an arbitrary deadline he says, in retrospect, probably wasn't realistic.

Mauer met the deadline and started opening day behind the plate in Toronto, but everything fell apart shortly after in what turned out to be the worst season of his career.

"This point last year, for me it's been night and day physically, how I feel," a cautiously optimistic Mauer said at TwinsFest on Saturday. "I really was just kind of doing rehab stuff with the knee. I don't think I grabbed a bat until I don't even know, later. I feel good. I'm excited to get out there on the field and move around. Things are a lot better for me physically than they were last year."

Mauer wouldn't say how much weight he lost during his tussle with pneumonia last September, but he did say he's back up to his playing weight of 230 pounds. His plan is to head back down to Fort Myers this coming week to continue adding strength before pitchers and catchers officially report on Feb. 18.

"I'm feeling a lot better. Just the work I've been doing to this point, I'm feeling a lot better. ...

"Probably over the last week and a half or so I've been hitting and throwing a little bit. Starting off the tee, just trying to build up towards opening day for camp and opening day. I've had a good, solid three weeks, two weeks of working out, building some strength. We've still got about three weeks for camp to start and continue to build up towards opening day. Once camp comes, I'll be ready to go.

"The knee's been feeling great. The last year and a half, just trying to compensate for that kind of took a toll on my whole body. I don't think it's going to be an issue. I'm feeling good, so I'm excited. This is the best I've felt in a long time. I'm excited about that."

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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In this story: Joe Mauer
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