Mauer using disappointment as motivation

Mauer using disappointment as motivation

Mauer using disappointment as motivation
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer proved he's much further along than he was at this point last year as he participated in a full day's worth of workouts at the Lee County Sports Complex on Sunday.

On the Twins' first official day of workouts between pitchers and catchers, Mauer worked with pitchers while they participated in fielding drills, caught about 90 pitches in bullpen sessions with Carlos Gutierrez, Brendan Wise and Jason Marquis and took batting practice.

He's about three weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year, when Mauer didn't get behind the plate until March 12 and didn't play in a Grapefruit League game until March 16 because he was recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee.

"It was good to get the gear back on," Mauer said. "I wasn't really too worried about it. Just getting out there and getting to run around with the guys. Catching Marquis, getting back behind the plate and seeing it."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased to see Mauer out there, considering he was rushed into action last spring and ultimately ended up on the disabled list just 10 games into the season because of his much publicized bout with bilateral leg weakness that kept him out of action for 58 games.

"He's ready to go," Gardenhire said. "He feels good, he's had a good winter, and he wants to play baseball. That's what he's always wanted to do, and he didn't get that opportunity enough last year."

Mauer, 28, was limited to only 82 games in '11, missing time with bilateral leg weakness, neck stiffness, a viral infection and an upper respiratory infection that turned into a bout with pneumonia that ended his season on Sept. 14.

He also posted career lows in batting average (.287), on-base percentage (.360), slugging percentage (.368) and home runs (three).

Mauer admitted that he simply wasn't healthy to start last year and that it snowballed into his worst season since coming into the league in 2004.

"Even probably to start the year last year, I knew it was going to be a grind, be a struggle right from the get go," Mauer said. "Did I know what was going to happen? No. But I knew it was going to be a tough year. I wasn't anywhere near close to where I am physically right now. I've still got a lot of work to do, and that's what Spring Training is for, trying to get ready for Opening Day."

With Mauer injured most of the year, and the Twins leading the Majors by utilizing the disabled list 27 times, Minnesota lost 99 games to finish with the worst record in the American League.

It left a sour taste in Mauer's mouth, and he's worked hard all offseason to ensure he'll be at his usual All-Star level to help the Twins bounce back from last year's disappointing finish.

"It's tough," Mauer said. "We're used to winning around here, and last season happened. You can't ignore it or make excuses about what happened. I think it's probably good for everybody to check themselves in the mirror and make sure something like that doesn't happen again."

Mauer added that he's not alone in using last year's struggles as motivation, and the Twins are intent on getting back on track this year.

"If you don't have that chip on your shoulder then something's wrong," Mauer said. "I think everybody, including myself, is just embarrassed about how last year played out. I'm just anxious to get back on the field and play."

Mauer will get that chance to play in his first game soon enough, as the Twins open Grapefruit League play against the Rays on March 3.

But until then, Mauer will be working hard with the intention of putting last season behind him and looking forward to a healthy and productive season.

"I'm excited for this camp," Mauer said. "It's probably the most excited I've been coming to camp. I mean, I'm always excited, but just to get back on the field and get after it and make sure something like 2011 doesn't happen."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.