Friday, September 17, 2010

Resting Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer caught last night for the Twins. This is noteworthy only because Carl Pavano was the starting pitcher, and Pavano has been paired for months with backup catcher Drew Butera.

There were good reasons for breaking the pattern Thursday.

  • Jason Kubel was out with an injury;
  • Starting Butera means sitting either Mauer or Jim Thome;
  • It was a game to really break any hope of resistance from the White Sox.

So Mauer played, and got another couple of hits (including his 42nd double; the team record is 47). And the Twins won, and now have a nine-game lead in the division.

And I fully expect Mauer to get a full day off this weekend, maybe a DH day as well. He should.
Regular time off from the rigors
of catching benefits Joe Mauer,
but it's easier said than done.

A Free Press colleague, Chad Courrier, was telling me Thursday of a talk-show caller who claimed the biggest hit of the Twins season was Mauer's failed bunt. After that, the reasoning went, he got hot. There's some truth to that, but it oversimplifies things.

You may remember the play. On July 20, the Twins were rallying. Two on, one out, tied game -- and Mauer tried, and failed, to bunt for a hit. Kubel also went out, and the Twins lost the game by a run. Mauer was royally reamed in press and cyberspace.

My take on the play was that Mauer was admitting on the field what he may not have been willling to admit in words -- he was too beat up, too sore, to play at his accustomed level.

These things happened shortly after that: Jose Morales was called up. Mauer got a cortisone shot in his ailing right shoulder. Butera caught every day for a week, nine starts in 15 games. For more than two weeks, Mauer spent little time behind the dish. He got rested, and he started hitting again.

And ... Butera was paired with Pavano, building an automatic day off from behind the plate into Mauer's schedule.

I wrote here during spring training that, for purposes of keeping Mauer healthy and productive through the length of his contract, that he should be limited to 125-130 games caught in a season. He's at 108 now, with the postseason still to come.

That total is about right. How they got there was dicey.

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