Mauer 'on track' but not pushing recovery

Mauer 'on track' but not pushing recovery

Mauer 'on track' but not pushing recovery
BLAINE, Minn. -- Joe Mauer had a piece of advice for Joe Nathan when the two were working out at Target Field on Friday morning. And that was to remind Nathan, who missed all of the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery, that his focus should be on being ready for Opening Day on April 1 and not necessarily the start of Spring Training.

"You could just see he's chomping at the bit," Mauer said during the first day of the team's annual TwinsFest. "I'm trying to get in his ear, saying April 1st, April 1st. It's still January."

It's advice that Mauer is trying to take for himself as well.

Mauer has been working to get his left knee healthy after undergoing a minor cleanup procedure back in December. Over the past few weeks, the catcher has been working out down at the Twins' Spring Training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and he gave a positive report on how his knee is doing.

But Mauer stressed that, like he told Nathan, he doesn't necessarily need to push himself to be 100 percent for the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 18.

"I'm taking that to heart, too," Mauer said of his advice. "I should be ready to go when we report, but I just have to be smart about it and get ready for the season."

Staying healthy hasn't exactly been easy for Mauer in recent years. In 2009, he missed the first month of the season due to inflammation in his lower back, and last season, the catcher was banged up with a variety of ailments throughout the season. That included a deep bruise in his left heel that caused him to miss a week of playing time in early May and soreness in his left knee that bothered him for the final few weeks of the season, affecting him during the playoffs as well.

"Last year, I got beat up pretty early, and when you have injuries, stuff like that early in the season, you deal with it the whole year," Mauer said. "Playing baseball we don't have six days to get healthy, we're playing seven days a week. You start compensating, and that just leads to another thing, so coming into this year, you try to take care of yourself as much as you can.

"I'm still trying to strengthen my legs, and just get in shape," he added. "With camp this year, I'm trying to take it like I'm getting ready for April 1. So I'm doing good; I'm on track."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was asked if he will try to do anything differently with Mauer this year in order to keep the catcher healthy. Gardenhire said he will always try to find ways to ease the wear and tear on Mauer, but he stressed it's not easy to prevent those bumps and bruises.

"Injuries happen in the game and catchers get beat up more than others," Gardenhire said. "For him to get that inflammation in his knee, there is no way to stop it. We're going to catch him. He's an All-Star, he's our go-to guy. He's going to do most of the catching. ... Obviously as a manager you try to do the best you can with resting a guy and giving him as many days. You rely on the players to tell me when and when not to. Normally Joe is pretty good at that."

Gardenhire did say that Mauer would probably get one day off every week as it's likely that backup catcher Drew Butera will continue to be Carl Pavano's primary catcher.