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Updated: April 24th, 2011 1:21pm
Notebook: Joe Mauer still battling soreness, facing rehab assignment

Notebook: Joe Mauer still battling soreness, facing rehab assignment

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Sidelined for the last two weeks with bilateral leg weakness and a nasty viral infection, Joe Mauer is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday when the Minnesota Twins finish their current homestand.

But that's not likely to happen.

Asked about a time table for Mauer's return on his weekly 1500 ESPN radio show Sunday, manager Ron Gardenhire said, "I wished I had an answer for you."

"First, we got him over the flu and pretty close to that. He's doing his rehabs and everything down there. I sat down with Joe for probably 15, 20, 30 minutes (on Friday) and we talked a long time and the first thing -- you can't really even make a big plan on what we're going to do with him as far as games until he gets healthy. So, we have to get him healthy."

Gardenhire said Mauer has finally gotten past the flu bug that caused him to lose at least 10 pounds -- "I think, at least pretty much all the way through it" -- and he will likely require a rehab assignment before returning to the lineup.

"But we have to get him back on the field before you can set up a rehab program," the manager said. "He's going to have to play somewhere. He's going to have to play some games. But the one thing Joe has expressed to me -- he said, 'I've got to get my legs underneath me and I've got to get the soreness out of my shoulder and my elbow,' and then we go from there."

The Twins continue to say that the soreness in Mauer's shoulder, elbow and elsewhere, as well as the leg weakness, are all bi-products -- at least, to some degree -- of the viral infection.

Drew Butera and Steve Holm will continue to split duties behind the plate until the former American League MVP returns.

As for possibly switching positions at some point, Gardenhire said, "We all know he wants to catch. He likes catching and everything, and we've said all along also if this continues and he's beat up all the time and he can't play, well, then we'll find another position and we'll just have to adlib and go from there.

"He's a good enough athlete that you can probably mix him out there, start working with him and he can probably do it and it wouldn't take a long time for him to make an adjustment. But he's our catcher right now. That's what he signed to do. That's why he wanted to stay here -- because he wanted to catch, and he's as good as they get when he's in the game. He's as good a catcher as you'll ever find. An All-Star, a Gold Glover, the whole package. So, right now we're just going to get him healthy, and once we get him healthy and get him back in the middle of the lineup and go from there and we'll work from there and then the future, we'll see what we have to do."

Cuddyer as every-day second baseman?

Michael Cuddyer started his sixth game at second base on Sunday, and Gardenhire has no qualms about making it a regular occurrence.

"Absolutely," Gardenhire said when asked about leaving Cuddyer at second base for a prolonged stretch of games. "If he's comfortable I'm comfortable. That's just the way it is. That's the way it's going to be right now."

Tsuyoshi Nishioka continues to rehab his broken fibula, but he isn't expected back in the lineup for at least another three weeks. Luke Hughes has started six games at second base since Nishioka's injury, and Matt Tolbert three, but Gardenhire's main concern is trying to field the best possible lineup.

"You're just trying to get as much offense as you can," Gardenhire said. "And actually, Cuddy's playing pretty good at second. He looks really comfortable out there, and he enjoys second. He actually has a lot of fun there. But the other option is to ... Either Thome's going to be out, or right now I don't have enough big sticks to do too many other things. If I put (Cuddyer) back out in right and Kubel is our DH, then you take Thome out of the lineup.

"I really have no problem with Michael Cuddyer playing second base. I got no worries. I mean, I think he's fine."

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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