MINNEAPOLIS -- The majority of Joe Mauer's career has been spent hitting in the third spot in the order. This season he's making the move to the No. 2 hole. While the catcher said that he's not significantly changing his approach due to the switch, there has been a slight adjustment considering the Twins new leadoff hitter, Carlos Gomez. Gomez's speed and basestealing ability has created a new dynamic at the top of the order for the Twins. That was evident in Monday's season opener. The young center fielder took well to the leadoff spot, putting himself in scoring position in each of his first three plate appearances. Gomez hit a double to lead off the game and stole second after he reached on a bunt in the third and drew a walk in the fifth.
Mauer was able to put together successful at-bats in all three of those situations. In the first, he lined a shot up the middle to score Gomez from second. Mauer then moved the young center fielder over to third in his next two at-bats, both groundouts to the second baseman. "It's kind of different, just because of the type of player [Gomez] is," Mauer said of his new role. "He can go on any pitch and causes a lot of problems for the other team. We haven't really had a guy like that here." Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that he's not looking for Mauer to sacrifice himself every time to move Gomez over. The message to the former batting champion is that he will still have the green light to hit. "Joe's job is to hit the ball hard," Gardenhire said. "It's not to try to get him over, it's get him over and in." Still, that role changes slightly when Mauer falls behind in the count. The catcher said his mission then is to just try and get Gomez over to third. Mauer said it's an approach that he doesn't have a problem taking, due to the fact that Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau are hitting behind him. "Knowing what the guys behind me can do allows me to try and just get him over to third there," Mauer said. "With just one out in that situation, they'll both have a shot at getting him in. Gardenhire said that he trusts Mauer to know what's best to do in a particular situation, without having to give him signs. And the catcher said that despite the new role, he feels he has a pretty good handle on knowing when to change his approach. "It's just playing the game," Mauer said. "They told me early on, if I'm ahead in the count, they are looking for me to drive him in. But when it comes down to close ballgames, I've got a pretty good feel for when I have to get him over or take a chance."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.