Big League Stew

When will Twins catcher Joe Mauer change his position permanently?

David Brown
Big League Stew

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With star catcher Joe Mauer taking a beating behind the plate lately, the Minnesota Twins have put him on the 7-day disabled list for concussions. They're not messing around, given the organization's bad luck with brain trauma. Slugger Justin Morneau, though he has recovered from his concussion in 2010, still hasn't regained his previous form at the plate.

Mauer's concussion is not expected to be like Morneau's, but it does cause a question to be raised again about Mauer: How long will his career as a catcher last? When will the Twins move him to another position in order to preserve his offensive capabilities? Mauer is 30 years old, and has logged nearly 7,900 innings behind the plate. Catchers, as hitters go, tend to burn out after age 30. Even the great Johnny Bench changed positions, eventually. Yogi Berra did, too.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, a guest on SiriusXM satellite radio Tuesday with Mike Ferrin and Cliff Floyd, addressed Ferrin's question: Have the Twins talked about moving him permanently?

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"Well, not yet. And the one thing you always have to do is ... talk to the player, see what his thoughts are. Explain what's best for the organization. I mean, you're talking about one of the best catchers in baseball, All-Star, the whole package and trying to fill that hole.

"But ... it's important that we keep him on the field. That was my goal, from spring training on, was to keep Mauer and Morneau on the field. We always feel we have a better chance when those two are out there. And now this concussion stuff brings something else into play here. So, we'll talk to Joe, set back and see where we go — especially the rest of this year and then the longterm future."

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About a week ago, coincidentally, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said his star catcher, Buster Posey, would make "a really good third baseman." Someday, but not imminently, the Giants will discuss moving Posey from behind the plate to another position in order to preserve his offensive skills.

Posey, at age 26, has logged 2,914 career innings as a catcher, not counting 200-plus more in the playoffs. He's not at the crossroads Mauer is, but he could come upon it quickly.

It sounds like Gardenhire is about to have that conversation with Mauer, who probably will resist, considering how much he loves playing defense. The same probably will happen with Posey. Posey and Mauer are elite catchers because they also can hit well. But even if Mauer were to move to first base, he'd still be among the best sluggers at that position:

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Some Twins fans (media too) don't like Mauer's game because he doesn't hit a lot of home runs, has never driven in 100 runs and makes $23 million a year. Despite him being imperfect and expensive, the Twins still are getting value out of Mauer, and probably would even if he wasn't a catcher anymore. The same won't be said if he breaks down physically. And it will be especially hard to take if the Twins could have lowered some of the risk. Gardy better bring it in that talk.

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