Notes: To bench or not to bench Mauer?

Notes: To bench or not to bench Mauer?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer will head into the final game of the season on Sunday with a very strong shot at becoming the first American League catcher to win the batting title.

But there's a chance that Mauer might not even be swinging the bat on the final day of the race.

Mauer entered Saturday still holding onto the lead in the batting race with his .346 average. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano sat just four points behind him (.342) and was slated to start for New York on Saturday.

But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire would like to give his starting catcher the day off on Sunday if the Twins have been completely eliminated from the AL Central race, rather than risk putting him behind the plate.

Knowing that it could be a close race for the batting title, Gardenhire will likely leave the decision up to Mauer.

"If he wants to hit, it will be up to him," Gardenhire said. "If Detroit wins tonight, it doesn't make sense of risking his knees and all those things by having him catch. Maybe if he wants to DH and get a couple at-bats, that would be OK. We'll see."

When asked after the game if he would like to have the chance to battle for the title, Mauer spoke in his usual modest terms and tried to deflect any attention that might be on him.

"I haven't really thought it about it much, to be honest," Mauer said.

Still, it was clear by one of Mauer's answers that the catcher likely will be out there in some form, even while he said that an extra day of rest could be very helpful, heading into the playoffs.

"I'd like to go out there if it's that close, and maybe go for it," Mauer said. "We still have a game left, it's close, and anything could happen. If it happens, great. If not, we're in the playoffs. That's the way I've been looking at it for a while, but it would be an honor to be the first catcher to do that."

Too many questions: There are plenty of difficult decisions managers face heading into the playoffs, and Gardenhire admitted that this season has provided more questions than most.

With their rotation yet to be determined, the Twins are a little anxious to get past the regular season and just have the playoff games start.

"It's not supposed to be like that, is it?" Gardenhire said. "But that's exactly where it is. We sat there in the dugout today and said that. This hasn't been simple or easy, any way you look at it. So many things going on that you're trying to do this -- racing for batting titles, MVPs, you name it. But the bottom line is winning baseball games. That's what you focus on most while trying to keep an eye on all the other stuff, too."

Down to one: Despite a strong performance from Glen Perkins on Friday night against White Sox, it looks like the rookie left-hander will not be on the roster for the first round of the playoffs.

The Twins had hoped that Perkins might be able to provide a second situational lefty out of the 'pen, but Perkins didn't show the ability to bounce back after throwing on consecutive days. After spending his entire career as a starter, that wasn't a surprise, but it has limited Perkins to a long-relief role. And with the return of Brad Radke to the club, Perkins' window of opportunity -- at least for the first round -- has appeared to close.

"It would be him coming out of the bullpen, and he's not built for the resiliency of that right now," Gardenhire said. "It's tough to do, but how many long guys do you need? I'm not going to punish guys that have gotten the job done."

Instead, Perkins was confirmed to be one of the extra guys that the club takes along in case of injury, along with infielder Alexi Casilla.

Down, but not out: Luis Castillo missed his fourth consecutive game Saturday with soreness in his left knee, but the hope is still to have the second baseman play in Sunday's game.

Gardenhire said he won't push the infielder to return if he still feels he's not ready. But even if that does happen, Gardenhire still feels Castillo will be ready once postseason play begins.

"It's always a concern, when you have a player hurt and hobbled," Gardenhire said. "But I think we all know that Luis will be out there playing come playoff time."

Quotable: "This is not even a day game, it's a morning game. We're two hours before day." -- Gardenhire, on the 11:10 a.m. CT start Saturday

Coming up: The Twins close out the regular season on Sunday against the White Sox in a 1:10 p.m. CT start. Either Scott Baker or Carlos Silva will try to send the Twins into the playoffs on a winning note, while Chicago sends right-hander Javier Vazquez (11-11, 4.77) to the mound.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.