MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer may have caught the attention of the baseball world last week, earning American League Player of the Week honors, but it appears that fans still have yet to take notice. The Twins catcher was notably missing from the top five catchers in latest results of fan balloting for the 2006 American League All-Star team. It's a fact that is surprising to many, as Mauer has been on a tear, batting .506 with 10 doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs over his last 20 games, as well as leading the Majors in hitting with his .386 batting average. But it's something that didn't seem to shock his manager.
"Our fans are voting for him, but he's not going to get as much notoriety around the United States as those other guys that have been out there for a long time," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Torii Hunter is the only Twins player that made the list of top vote-getters, as he is No. 11 for American League outfielders with a total of 349,262 votes. Hunter knows that name recognition is a big part of the reason he is getting votes, and the reason that Mauer still trails behind such players as Boston's Jason Varitek, New York's Jorge Posada and Detroit's Pudge Rodriguez. "If he were with the Yankees, he'd be No. 1," Hunter said. "He's killing Varitek and he's killing Posada. He's out-playing Rodriguez, and Pudge is playing pretty good. But they are in the big markets and the names that people already know." While much is being made of Mauer's lack of presence in the voting, the Twins catcher himself doesn't seem to be too concerned about the vote tallies. In fact, he has hardly paid any attention to it at all. "The only time I've paid attention to it this year was the first time that it came out, and they said it was all Yankees and Red Sox at the top," Mauer said with a laugh. "It would be a great honor to be selected for something like that, but I don't really look at it too much." Though the fans have seemed to forget about Mauer on the ballots, it's the people around the game who Gardenhire believes will take notice of the 23-year-old catcher when it comes time for handing out All-Star bids. "It's a little premature to be talking about all that, but to me, he's just second to none," Gardenhire said. "We'll see when we get there, but it seems that smart heads prevail most of the time." Rehab starts: Ruben Sierra took a big step in his effort to return to the Twins on Tuesday as he reported to Triple-A Rochester for a rehabilitation stint. Gardenhire said Sierra is expected to play eight games for the Red Wings and play in the DH role, as well as playing the outfield in three of the games. The stint will coincide with the Twins leaving for a six-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Houston for Interleague play. Gardenhire said a decision about Sierra's status will be made when the club returns back to the Twin Cities. "When we get ready to come back home, we're going to see how he's doing, and if he's handling himself and ready to come back," Gardenhire said. Third by committee? Luis Rodriguez got the start in place of Tony Batista at third on Tuesday, raising questions as to whether the third base position is up for grabs at this point in the season. Batista has struggled at the plate, hitting just .236 with five home runs and 21 RBIs, and has started only four of the team's last eight games. Gardenhire said that the decision to start Rodriguez had to do with the fact that he provides a little more movement at third, as well as the fact that left-handers have hit better off pitcher Curt Schilling this season. The position could become a rotation of players on a game-by-game basis. "Batista has been the third baseman and tonight it's just a chance to get Luis Rodriguez in, and we'll make adjustments as we go along and match up as best we can," Gardenhire said. Probe begins: Tuesday marked the first day of questioning for the Twins coaching staff and other members of the organization, as Major League Baseball's drug probe, headed by former Senator George Mitchell, made its stop at the Metrodome. The Twins are one of the first clubs to be involved in the interview process. Started by Commissioner Bud Selig, it will reach all 30 Major League teams. Gardenhire underwent his session of questioning on Tuesday and said that everything went as expected. "It was kind of what I thought it would be," Gardenhire said of his hour-and-a-half meeting. "It was a nice question and answer. We're not really allowed to talk a whole lot about it, but they are just trying to figure out how to help the game." More interviews are expected to take place with the rest of the coaching staff on Wednesday. Twins tidbits: The timetable for Shannon Stewart to head out on his rehab stint is still uncertain. Stewart has yet to run the bases, although he performed plenty of running drills in the outfield with apparently no problem on Tuesday. ... The Twins' head trainer, Rick McWane, was absent from Tuesday's game. His wife, Annette, gave birth to their first child, a son, earlier in the afternoon. Derrick William McWane weighed five pounds, 1 ounce, and measured in at 19 inches long. ... The Twins signed six more draft selections, including ninth-round pick Sean Land, to bring their total number of signings from this year's First-Year Player Draft to 13. Quotable: "I stay away from him as far as I can. I don't want my swing to wear off on his." -- Gardenhire, when asked whether he has given Mauer any swing tips during his recent hot streak Down on the farm: Catcher Chris Heintz was 2-for-4 with an RBI as Triple-A Rochester lost, 4-3, at Scranton on Monday. Kevin West and Josh Rabe each tallied RBIs and starter Pete Munro gave up four runs, three earned, on eight hits as he went six innings to pick up his fifth loss of the season. ... Kyle Waldrop allowed just one run on seven hits over six innings as Class A Beloit defeated South Bend, 2-1, on Sunday. Outfielder Eli Tintor drove home both runs when he blasted a two-run homer in the second inning. Coming up: The Twins and Red Sox will duel again in Game 2 of the series on Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. CT. Brad Radke will try to continue his streak of quality outings for the Twins as he faces off against Boston right-hander Matt Clement.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.