Mauer has been out since April 15 with bilateral leg weakness, a condition team doctors say was brought on by a light workload in spring training while he worked his way back from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The latest struggles have renewed the debate about the three-time AL batting champion moving to another position to keep his bat in the lineup.
Mauer said Thursday that he is determined to stay right where he is.
“I just think I can help the team a lot better when I’m behind the plate,” said Mauer, who is in the first season of an eight-year, $184 million contract. “That’s what I signed here to do is to catch. I think we’re a better ballclub when I’m behind the plate.”
Mauer had surgery in December and he only played in eight games during spring training with the hopes that it would keep his legs fresh for the grind of catching in the regular season.
“He, I don’t think, has had the repetitions either for catching or anything else,” McWane said. “Once the season started, he started to wear down.”
Mauer said he “really started to go downhill” after the second series of the season. His offense suffered for it, with a .235 average, no homers and four RBIs in nine games.
“I was out there fighting it and my body just said I couldn’t go anymore,” Mauer said. “It’s tough to admit that, especially with the things that guys play through. But it gets to a point where your body says you can’t go anymore.”
Mauer said he is making progress, but he has yet to resume baseball activities. He was eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, but there is no timetable for his return.
“He wasn’t strong enough to handle the everyday catching,” McWane said. “At the end of spring training, he said it was the best he had felt and he was doing fine. He didn’t have any issues with his knee at the end of spring training.”
Mauer also lost about a week with a bout of the flu that circulated through the clubhouse. The team initially thought Mauer’s soreness may have been partially from the illness, but McWane says that’s not the case.
“He had weakness and some soreness throughout his whole body, just from catching,” McWane said. “We had discussed that with him and we knew we needed to change some things up to get him stronger. And then, coincidentally, the same day he got sick with a virus.”
Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka, on the disabled list with a broken left leg, will get a follow-up X-ray on Friday. McWane said doctors will decide the next step in his rehabilitation.
“He’s getting really close to turning it up a little bit,” McWane said. “So, that’s why we’re getting the X-ray, to see if we can push him through the next step.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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