Mauer makes 16th straight start in Twins' lineup

Mauer makes 16th straight start in Twins' lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Mauer was back in the starting lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Rays. He's been there in the three-hole for all 16 of the Twins' games this season, though not necessarily in the same place defensively.

After playing only 82 games in an injury-marred 2011 season, Mauer has yet to take a day off. He has nine starts at catcher, four at first base and three at designated hitter. Rather than give him days off, manager Ron Gardenhire is looking to keep Mauer fresh by limiting the wear and tear he'd face behind the plate every day.

"That gives him a little bit of a reprieve from the daily grind and the beating up of a catcher," Gardenhire said. "That's why I don't feel like I have to do too awful much as far as breaks go, because he is DHing some, he is playing first base some, which takes a load off his body."

Part of the reason Gardenhire wanted Mauer behind the plate Sunday was so he could get lefty Francisco Liriano "on the right track" after a shaky start to the season. Gardenhire thought the two worked well together this spring, with Mauer encouraging Liriano to be more aggressive with his fastball.

"Let's not forget the most important part about Mauer catching today: We're trying to win a series," Gardenhire added. "Joe wants to be a part of that. We'd like to win two out of three and go home. Joe being in the lineup definitely gives us a better chance."