BALTIMORE -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire offered up a new theory on Friday on why Joe Mauer uncharacteristically struggled in the first half of the season.
Mauer hit .271/.342/.353 with two homers, 17 doubles and 28 RBIs in 76 games before going on the 15-day disabled list on July 2 with a strained right oblique. But he's been playing much better since his return, hitting .288/.400/.475 with two homers, five doubles and 12 RBIs in 17 games, entering Friday.
"There's no doubt that he was pressing before the All-Star Game," Gardenhire said. "It's the first time in my career as a manager here that I've seen Joe Mauer really want something bad, and that was to play in that All-Star Game. I really think that played a part in it. I don't think he would ever admit to it, but in my opinion it definitely did."
The All-Star Game, which was held at Target Field on July 15, didn't feature Mauer, as the Minnesota native had a down first half and was on the DL at the time. The six-time All-Star still served as an ambassador for the event.
But Mauer downplayed Gardenhire's take on his first half, as he felt there was more to it than simply pressing to make the All-Star team.
"I don't know about that," Mauer said. "I definitely wanted to make the team. But I don't know if it had anything to do with my first half. It's news to me."
Mauer said injuries played a role, and he believes he's still making good contact this year, but a lot of line drives have gone for outs. Mauer is hitting line drives 26.5 percent of the time, which is higher than his career 23.7 percent mark, but is hitting .330 on balls in play, which is lower than his career .347 mark, according to Fangraphs.com.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Mauer said. "I've lined out quite a bit, and probably more than in the past."
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.