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Mauer adds Silver Slugger to mantle

Mauer adds Silver Slugger to mantle

MINNEAPOLIS -- Award season continues to be kind to Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

Mauer added to his growing award collection on Thursday when he was honored with a Silver Slugger Award.

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Louisville Slugger's Silver Slugger Award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers who vote for the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National Leagues in 2009.

It's the third time that Mauer has been selected for a Silver Slugger Award. He also took home the award in 2006 and 2008.

The honor came a couple days after Mauer picked up his second straight Gold Glove Award, and the catcher is considered one of the leading candidates for the AL MVP Award, which will be announced on Nov. 23.

Mauer, 26, led the AL in batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.444) and slugging percentage (.587) in 2009. He earned his third batting title, making him the first catcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat.

The Twins All-Star catcher also set career highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (96), all of which he accomplished after missing the entire first month of the season due to lower back inflammation.

Selections for the Silver Sluggers are based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value. Managers and coaches were not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

Joining Mauer as fellow 2009 AL Silver Slugger winners were Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind and outfielders Jason Bay of the Red Sox, Torii Hunter of the Angels and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners.

Mauer had one wish when the offseason started, and it had nothing to do with any of the awards that were expected to come his way. Rather, he just wanted to have a healthy winter, something that hasn't come easy for him in previous years. And so far, he's been able to see that wish come true.

2009 AL SILVER SLUGGER AWARDS
The Silver Slugger Awards are given to the players deemed to be the best offensive performers at their positions, voted on by Major League managers and coaches.
POS PLAYER HR RBI AVG
1B M. Teixeira, Yankees 39 122 .292
2B Aaron Hill, Blue Jays 36 108 .286
3B Evan Longoria, Rays 33 113 .281
SS Derek Jeter, Yankees 18 66 .334
OF Jason Bay, Red Sox 36 119 .267
OF Torii Hunter, Angels 22 90 .299
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners 11 46 .352
C Joe Mauer, Twins 28 96 .365
DH Adam Lind, Blue Jays 35 114 .305

Mauer went to Baltimore recently to visit with his doctor there as a follow-up on the lower back injury that caused the catcher to miss all of Spring Training and the season's first month.

While the inflammation in his sacroiliac joint never flared up during the 2009 season, Mauer was a little banged up by the end of the campaign. That included the catcher battling some hip flexor problems during the American League Division Series with the Yankees. But Mauer said nothing is bothering him now.

"I met with my doctor in Baltimore, and everything turned out pretty good," Mauer said in a phone interview late Wednesday. "I haven't really had an offseason where I haven't anything lingering really. But it's good. I just have to figure out what to do with myself."

While Mauer said that talks have not yet started between him and the Twins on a contract extension, he was pleased by the one move the club has already made this winter. Last week, Twins general manager Bill Smith traded center fielder Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Mauer has been friends with Hardy for a long time, as the two played on many junior national teams together starting when they were both around 15 years old.

"It's exciting because I've known him a long time and I know what type of guy we're getting," Mauer said. "He's going to fit in really well in our clubhouse and in our lineup. It's tough to see Go-Go leave, but you have to trade talent to get talent. We're going to miss him. You wish him the best and understand that these things do happen. But I'm excited about Hardy and having him be a part of this team.

Mauer said he spoke with Hardy following the trade, and the two plan to get together and possibly play some golf while Mauer is in Arizona next week to play in Harmon Killebrew's annual charity golf outing.

"I called and talked to him and told him I'm looking forward to having him here," Mauer said. "I know he's excited. I think it will be a great opportunity for him."

As for the big award -- the MVP -- that could be coming his way, Mauer didn't seem too focused on whether or not he will win it. While he acknowledged it would be special to become just the fifth Twins player to win the MVP Award, Mauer said it's not going to diminish the year that he had if he doesn't walk away with the honor.

"Everything that happened this season and the year we had, it's just starting to sink in," Mauer said. "I'm starting to appreciate it all now -- the run that we made there at the end and me personally being able to stay on the field and produce. Now has been a good time to be able to reflect on all those things."

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

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