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Updated: August 28th, 2011 12:21pm
Rivera recalled as extra catcher; Mauer aware change is necessary

Rivera recalled as extra catcher; Mauer aware change is necessary

by Phil Mackey
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MINNEAPOLIS -- With Joe Mauer's neck still ailing, the Minnesota Twins recalled catcher Rene Rivera from Triple-A Rochester in time for him to start Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers.

To make room on the 25-man roster, Matt Tolbert was optioned out, but he'll likely rejoin the club when rosters expand on Sept. 1.

Rivera owns a .268/.325/.450 batting line with 17 extra-base hits at Triple-A this season, and he was praised for how well he worked with Twins pitchers during his time in the major leagues earlier in the year.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Mauer hopes to be ready to catch again in Chicago.

"Joe actually feels pretty good today (Sunday)," Gardenhire said. "I talked with him whether this was going to be a DL situation, and I didn't want to put him on the DL and he didn't want to go on it, really. I told him, 'How you coming today?' He's going to make a big decision here. He says he thinks he'll be able to catch (Monday) or the next day."

Gardenhire added that Mauer could be available off the bench in a pinch-hitting situation, but "we'll see how the game goes along."

Mauer last caught on August 20 against the Yankees.

Mauer aware that change is necessary

During his weekly radio show Sunday, Gardenhire also addressed, once again, the criticism Mauer has received lately for not being on the field.

"He's been shot at an awful lot, and unjustly," Gardenhire said on 1500 ESPN. "He's doing the bets he can. If you're hurt you're hurt, and no one wants to play more than Joe. And he's played through a lot."

Gardenhire added that Mauer "went into last winter and his body was pretty beat-up at the end of the year and in the playoffs. He didn't have a whole lot left in the playoffs. ...

"He went into the offseason beat-up, and that kind of backed him away from being able to do a whole awful lot. But I think he understands, as you get older, you've got to start changing the way you do things during the winter. You can't just get out of bed like you used to when you were a little younger and start working out and pick up where you left off. You've got to stay with it and maintain.

"And I think Joe, now, if he's healthy, and he's able to do those things he's going to change the way he goes about it and do a little bit more during the winter -- all winter, rather than just start and pick it up after a month or two."

The plan is for Mauer to catch as much as possible next season, but ...

"If that's not physically possible, if it looks like it's beating him up, then sure, we would have to definitely make some adjustments," Gardenhire said. "And spring training is a good chance to just let him kind of get a feel for (other positions). We haven't done that in the past, but being able to play him a little bit at first base, and maybe a little bit in right field, or wherever, even in a spring training game, just getting him out there... will help him. But also, I think we're going to have to wait and see once we get him into spring training how he feels, how he's done during the winter, before we make a decision."

Then there's the criticism Mauer has received for his perceived lack of leadership.

"He realizes that he's got to get out and be more vocal to the media. He's got to handle it a little bit different, and that's going to help his situation out. He's a quiet guy and he goes about his business, and he's been that way, and I don't think anybody wants him to change that part of it, but as being the leader around this clubhouse and everything, he's going to have to step out in front and actually let people know what he's thinking a little bit better. And knows that. That's what he's told me, he's told you, and I think he'll handle that. I think he'll handle that a lot better."

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