The four-time All-Star and former American League Most Valuable Player was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, and is scheduled to make his return to action at catcher against the Padres on Friday, after missing 57 games with bilateral leg weakness. Outfielder Brian Dinkelman was outrighted to Triple-A Rochester to make room for Mauer on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters.
Mauer, out since catching 10 innings against the Royals on April 12, held a 20-minute press conference after Thursday's 1-0 win over the White Sox to discuss his return to Target Field.
"I think the most important thing about what we're doing today is that I don't want to be a distraction to my teammates, to this team," said Mauer. "We just kind of got on a roll here, I think it's 11 out of 13. I think that's what we should be focusing on, winning ball games. Me coming back, I want to be a part of that."
Mauer, 28, also wanted to clarify why he missed so much time, as the term bilateral leg weakness caused plenty of confusion and speculation among fans and the media. He said it simply stemmed from the surgery on his left knee in December, and that both legs became weak because of rushing back from the procedure -- and not because of a disease.
"Yeah, I don't have Lyme disease, I can say that," he said. "That's the thing. Everybody has thrown their own opinion on it. But why I missed time is because of [the] knee -- and weakness in my legs compensating for my knee. Am I good to go now? Yeah. I have to work at it, but I don't have a disease or anything like that. So it's probably a good thing to clear that up."
Mauer becomes the second key addition returning to the Twins, after Tsuyoshi Nishioka came back from injury on Thursday. Left-hander Glen Perkins will also return on Friday. Joe Nathan, Jim Thome, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau and Kevin Slowey all remain on the disabled list, but all have been making progress in their recoveries.
"Obviously, we are thrilled to have Joe Mauer joining our club for tomorrow's game," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "This is the first piece of getting our ballclub back together. Joe and Glen Perkins will join us for tomorrow, and we've still got a lot of guys on that DL that we're hoping to get back in the next week to 10 days."
Mauer, who hit just .235 with a .289 on-base percentage and a .265 slugging percentage in nine games before hitting the DL, said he feels ready to go after rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla., including a seven-game stint with Class A Fort Myers.
Mauer's slash line was .261/.370/.478, with a home run and six RBIs in those seven games -- and he deemed himself ready to return after hitting against Nathan in a batting-practice session on Wednesday.
"I mean, 100 percent. I don't think anybody's 100 percent, right now, in Major League Baseball -- but I'm feeling great," Mauer said. "I'm making a lot of progress. Am I going to come up here and catch the last whatever how many games we have? No. But I can kind of get back to playing and [catching] back-to-back days, and that's what I need to do."
Mauer also added that his shoulder, which also bothered him last season, is feeling much better -- and that he plans to remain behind the plate, instead of moving to another position.
Mauer, who signed an eight-year deal worth $184 million over the offseason, also had a message for those who felt he took his time rehabbing his injury and could've rejoined the club sooner.
"I think they're just misinformed," Mauer said. "I think my reputation over the years has been the opposite of that. And as long as my teammates know, and this organization knows, I'm OK with that."
The St. Paul native also said he hopes to still have the fans' support upon his return, and added he "sees no reason" why the Twins can't continue their winning ways and capture another division title, despite their slow start.
"I'm most anxious about getting on the field with my team," Mauer said. "But I've been working real hard. I think a lot of different opinions have been thrown out about what's been happening. So just to the fans, you know, I think most of them know how hard I work, and how much I want to be out there. Nobody wants to be out there more than I do. I think a lot of that has come out of frustration. I can tell you right now, nobody has been more frustrated than [me] over the last month or last months, I should say.
"I go out there and play hard every day, and obviously the support of the fans means a lot to me. I hope I take it back on the field -- and when we start playing, things will get back to where they need to be."