Gardy confident Mauer will bust out of slump

Gardy confident Mauer will bust out of slump

NEW YORK -- As Joe Mauer goes, so does the Twins' offense it seems.

So with Mauer in a recent slump, the offense has been scuffling, especially over the last 10 days.

Mauer entered Sunday hitting just .205 with no walks over his last nine games, including an 0-for-4 performance with two strikeouts and a double play in Saturday's 3-1 loss to the Yankees. The Twins have averaged just 2.33 runs per game over that span, going 2-7. But manager Ron Gardenhire insisted he's still not worried about Mauer and is more concerned about the effect his struggles have on the team.

"I feel for us if he's not hitting and struggling a bit," Gardenhire said. "He's just a big part of our offense and our team. I don't worry about Joe. He's a hitter. He's going to come out of it. Everybody has scuffles throughout their career, but with Joe we haven't really seen it."

Mauer finished May hitting .267/.343/.340 for the season, which outside of his injury-marred 2011 season, is the worst start to his career through the first two months of the season. Outside of '11, when he only played in nine games through May 31, Mauer's career-low batting average through the first two months of the season was .296 in 49 games in '12. Mauer was hitting .332/.409/.492 in 49 games through May 31 last year in his final season as a catcher.

Much of Mauer's struggles have come since he suffered back spasms that kept him out for nearly a week in early May, but Gardenhire said that Mauer is currently feeling fine. Mauer entered Sunday hitting .224/.259/.289 with three doubles and a triple in 19 games since the injury.

"He's healthy," Gardenhire said. "He feels great. His body feels as good as it ever has. He's hit the ball on the screws and it's just gone right at people. But we need him to swing and get hits."

Gardenhire added that he talked to Mauer about getting a day off as a mental break with his current struggles, but Mauer declined. Mauer has started 49 of the club's 54 games this season, including 41 starts at first base. Gardenhire said there's still a chance he gives Mauer a break but that it's likely to come on the road instead of in front of the home fans at Target Field.

"I talked to him and he said he felt great and didn't need a day off," Gardenhire said. "I'm never afraid to give a guy a day. I think everybody needs it, even if you're playing first base. But I give him those DH days, which I think are good for him, too. But I'm not afraid to do it. I just won't do it at home."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.