Updated: March 30th, 2012 9:59am
Joe Mauer's body 'feels a lot better than what it did' last March

Joe Mauer's body 'feels a lot better than what it did' last March

by Phil Mackey
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Prior to the Minnesota Twins' game against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, Joe Mauer was asked how much better he feels mechanically at the plate this year, as opposed to last year in late-March.

"Well, I'm getting there," he said. "There's still a few things I want to get a few more at-bats to work on."

It was then pointed out to Mauer by a reporter that he's hitting .340 this spring.

"Am I? I didn't know. I guess that's good then. But for me, when I feel like I can get on time for a fastball on the inside part of the plate and everything's working, that's kind of when I feel like I'm ready to go, and I'm pretty close. So, hopefully, a few more at-bats will get me there."

And for the record, "yeah, my body feels a lot better than what it did (last March)," Mauer said.

Mauer hasn't missed a workout, a bullpen session or a game he was scheduled to play in.

Injuries haven't been a discussion topic since a day or two after he arrived in mid-February.

Along with getting a few more at-bats to continue working on timing, Mauer said he also plans to catch multiple games in a row before camp breaks.

Here's what else Mauer had to say on Friday, about his personal expecations, about Francisco Liriano, and about other items:

Does it bother you everybody is picking you fourth or fifth in the division?

We're OK with everybody picking Detroit. Over the years, we haven't been picked a whole lot to finish at the top. We know what we have in this clubhouse and we're very capable of getting to where we want to be and that's our goal.

Do you set goals personally?

Yeah, I do. For me this year, just try to be on the field as much as I can. I think it was well-publicized that was kind of my biggest goal coming in. But yeah, just try to be on the field as much as I can.

In Sports Illustrated, there was some scout saying, 'Joe Mauer will never be the same. He will never do what he did again.' Do you read that?

No. I don't really read the paper a whole lot. But like I said, people are going to have their opinions on whatever and you've just got to go out there and work hard and do your best and that's what I've always done.

You have four or five games left here. Do you like what you see heading into the opener at Baltimore?

Yeah. I think it's been a pretty good camp. I think I still would like to get a few more at-bats before I get up there, but yeah, things are going pretty good.

Do you feel you've accomplished everything you need to accomplish down here?

Yeah, I think it's been a good camp. I think coming in, definitely excited. I'm still excited for the season. I think mentally I've been ready to get out of here for a while. But like I said, I want to get a few more at-bats and maybe catch a few more innings before we get going.

You've worked with Francisco Liriano several times in games here. He's talked about you going out there to make sure he's staying calm and mechanically sound. What's your relationship like with him and how has it evolved?

It's good. Obviously, I've seen him throw a lot over the years. I think Frankie's biggest key is just to calm him down a little bit and make sure his arm gets up, try not to do too much, and when he does that, he's pretty good.

He's talked about trying to cut down on sliders. Is that partially your responsibility?

Yeah. Frankie, he's got great stuff. I think he wants to sometime show everything and he doesn't have to. So, always try to keep that slider in the back pocket a little bit and when he does break it out, it's a lot tougher to hit.

Have you been more proactive with Frankie than other guys on the staff in terms of noticing warning signs?

Well, yeah. That's the one key for Frankie, to make sure that his arm's up and to calm him down a little bit. When he does that, he's pretty darn good. So, you want him to have a great year just like anybody else, but there's kind of different keys for different pitchers for them to be successful.

How nice has it been to see Justin Morneau get his timing back in the last week or so?

It's been good. He's been swinging the bat well as of late and hopefully, he can carry that on into the season.

Do you think, if Justin's going to be a DH, that changes your time at catcher because you'll have to play more first base?

I don't know. I think that's probably a question for (manager Ron Gardenhire). I've always told him all along that, however, he wants to use me, use me. But I think we're a better ballclub when I'm behind the plate, and if I can get over to first or get a DH here and there, I think that'll help throughout the season.

What Justin said was he feels like this team is better when he gets 600 at-bats. Do you feel that way?

I'd like to see him get 600 at-bats for sure. When you see just his name in the lineup, I think everybody around the league knows what he's capable of doing. A healthy Morneau will definitely be a great thing for our ballclub.

Are you at a spot where you feel you can catch a couple days in a row and that's a complete non-issue like it was last year?

Well, yeah. That's one of the things I want to do before we leave camp here. I think that's every year is just to catch back to back and kind of get into the season. It's good we have a few more days to do that, and I feel a lot better heading into this year than I did last year, for sure.

Do you view this season as a success if you're behind the plate at least 130 times or so?

I never really put a gauge on games or numbers -- games caught I guess, it's more games played. I'd like that number to be 162, but I think I've learned over the years that that's probably not realistic for a catcher. So, I want to be out there as much as I can and if I catch 130 or a hundred-I-don't-know, as long as I'm out there, that's what's important.

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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