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Updated: February 18th, 2012 2:12pm
Unlike last year, Joe Mauer to have no limitations when workouts begin

Unlike last year, Joe Mauer to have no limitations when workouts begin

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Hammond Stadium on Saturday, Joe Mauer can already say his 2012 spring training is off to a better start than last year's.

Mauer didn't catch his first bullpen session in 2011 until March 12. He didn't tally his first spring at-bat until March 16.

This year, with no knee surgery to recover from, combined with a full offseason of workouts, Mauer will be full-go when pitchers and catchers start workouts on Sunday. No limitations, other than the normal resting periods for a soon-to-be 29-year-old veteran.

"I'll be doing everything," Mauer said. "I'll be another catcher out there running around, and that's exciting for me. I was pretty limited all spring last year, and to get out there and run around with the guys is definitely something that I missed."

Mauer's delayed spring timeline and subsequent rush to the finish line in late-March helped trigger the worst season of his career. The former American League MVP played in only 82 games, batting just .287/.360/.368 with three home runs -- a far cry from his first season at Target Field in 2010 when he hit .327/.402/.469 with 43 doubles and nine home runs.

"Last year I think I only played two or three games before leaving camp, so obviously you learn from that and you've got to get in there," he said. "You've got to catch bullpens, you've got to play games. And I just wasn't physically able to do that last year. So I'm excited this year."

On Saturday, Mauer took swings in the batting cage under the grandstand at Hammond Stadium, and he said he already caught Scott Baker earlier this week.

He did provide some caution, saying, "I try to limit as much bending down as I can, but I'm feeling good and I'm ready to go. ... Every year I think the last few years especially you just try to limit that as much as you can, and just be smart about the way you go about getting your work in."

Keeping the catching workload light shouldn't be an issue early in camp, as the Twins will have eight catchers to split bullpen duties.

Mauer flew down to Fort Myers to begin workouts almost immediately after TwinsFest in late January, and he seems to be in an entirely different place, both physically and mentally, compared to last season at this time.

"Yeah. I would say so," he said. "Even probably to start the year last year, I knew it was going to be a grind, be a struggle right from the get go. Did I know what was going to happen? No. But I knew it was going to be a tough year. I wasn't anywhere near close to where I am physically right now.

"I've still got a lot of work to do, and that's what spring training is for, trying to get ready for opening day."

A lot of work, perhaps. But not nearly the uphill climb he faced in 2011.

"I'm excited for this camp. Probably most excited I've been coming to camp. I mean, I'm always excited, but just to get back on the field and get after it and make sure something like 2011 doesn't happen."

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
In this story: Scott Baker, Joe Mauer
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