Friday, April 15, 2011

The Twins' Thursday curse

When and if Joe Mauer moves to another position,
the odds are back problems will be a catalyst in the shift.
Another Thursday, another Twins loss, another key injury.

Last week it was Tsuyoshi Nishioka's broken fibula; yesterday it was Joe Mauer's "bilateral leg weakness." He was put on the disabled list and is to see the specialist who treated his sacroiliac joint in 2009.

This diagnosis was a new one to me, but the more I learn of it the more concerned I become. Presumably this is rooted in his back, and it is back issues that generally sabotage the careers of tall catchers. Mauer is listed at 6-foot-5 and may be taller than that; he is definitely a tall catcher.

I've been dismissive of the chronic talk of moving Mauer to another position, and I would like to continue to be dismissive of that notion. Two disabling back injuries in a little more than two years (if that's the cause) makes that a difficult position to maintain.

There is much unknown about the outlook, including the exact cause and even when Mauer will see the specialist. so it's premature to declare that his catching days are numbered. What we do know for a fact is that he won't be catching for at least two weeks, and we also know that the Twins, having traded both Wilson Ramos and Jose Morales in the past year, are not particularly deep in catchers now.

Presumably Drew Butera will be the primary catcher while Mauer is sidelined. Steve Holm, a 31-year-old minor league veteran who hit .400 (in 15 at-bats) in spring training, has been called up to serve as the backup. Holm has all of 53 major league games on his resume -- which is what Butera has after Thursday's game.

There is, obviously, a big drop off from Joe Mauer to Butera and Holm. If Mauer's going to be out for a prolonged period, the Twins may have to shop for outside help.


  1. Yes, the Twins have a problem here.

    As one who has recently been dealing with disc problems in my lower back after many years in my job, I think I have an idea what Joe may be experiencing. I am especially concerned after reading they are tying his leg problems to his sacroiliac. He has a big advantage in that he's young, but that constant crouching and up-and-down stuff he has to do as a catcher can't be good for him in the long run. While I expect Joe and the Twins will continue to try and play him behind the plate, I think the day of his changing positions is rapidly approaching, and Joe and the team will be better off if they confront it ASAP.

    But where are they gonna play him? DH him a lot and let him start in another position gradually?

  2. Tough call. If we could just switch him we could maybe move him to left/right field and trade one of our starters for a pitcher/middle infielder? I'd hate to see any of those guys go though.

    If we're going for a more gradual change maybe platoon him at right with kubel and move cuddy to second for the time being?

  3. i don't think it will happen anytime soon, but, when joe does change positions, where does he go? OF, 3B, 2B, DH? and is his bat enough to justify the contract at that new position?