ST. PETERSBURG -- As manager Ron Gardenhire hinted at on Wednesday, Joe Mauer finished out the Twins' four-game series against the Rays as the team's designated hitter.
After sitting out two games on Sunday and Monday, Mauer has been the designated hitter in three straight games to help lighten the workload on his sore right shoulder. The All-Star catcher had a cortisone shot to relieve tendinitis in his shoulder, and Gardenhire said he didn't want Mauer back behind the plate until he was able to say with 100 percent certainty that he could do so and not feel any residual soreness.
"He's still not quite there. I think probably this next series, he should be able to catch and start going out there. Just got to give it time," Gardenhire said. "As I told him, I don't want it to be, 'It feels OK,' especially against a team like this that does run. I'd rather just give him the time and have him get well."
Mauer played catch before Thursday afternoon's game, but "it just didn't work out." Gardenhire thought he would be better off resting the shoulder instead of forcing Mauer behind the plate against a basestealing team like the Rays and potentially hurting him as a hitter in the long run.
"I think he felt it every time he throws, and that's what we're trying to get away from," Gardenhire said. "If it affects you that way, eventually it's going to get to your swing. It was starting to bother him a little bit swinging, and that's why we decided to do the cortisone shot."
Fortunately for Gardenhire and the Twins, Mauer has not shown any signs of slowing down at the plate. In 22 games since July 3, he is batting .376 (35-for-93) with 11 doubles, three home runs, 22 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Entering play Thursday He had 16 hits in his last 27 at-bats, good for a .593 batting average.
As soon as Mauer gives Gardenhire the signal he's ready to line up behind the dish, he will be back in his usual spot.
"He still throws the ball really good, but only he can tell you how much it's affecting him," Gardenhire said. "It's coming out of his hand pretty decent, even though he is sore, because he has such a strong arm. But it's no fun to play with a sore arm, I can tell you that."