Tue Feb 23 08:38am EST
Big League Stew contributor David Brown continued his spring swing through Florida's Grapefruit League on Monday with a trip to the south side of Fort Myers to see Joe Mauer(notes) and the Minnesota Twins. Check back throughout the day for reports on the defending AL Central champs, and follow Dave's Twitter feed for updates on what's happening Tuesday.
Sorry about the misleading headline. No, Mr. Mauer didn't finally sign that long-term deal with the Twinkies but he did take time to meet his public. Most of the fans visiting Hammond Stadium fixated on Mauer, who drew a crowd no matter if he took batting practice, shagged fly balls or was just standing there getting a drink. Does Mauer notice his own Pied Piper-ness?
"I'm a guy who usually likes to be behind the scenes," Mauer said. "But we have great fans and their support is unbelievable, so I'm more than happy to do whatever."
A year ago at this time, Mauer suffered back spasms and was limited in the early days of camp. This time, he feels great to go.
"Joe Mauer does just fine," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's someone we don't have to worry about."
Fans will concur once Mauer signs — a contract extension.
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Gardenhire said that, with one exception, all of his pitchers and catchers were in camp for the team's first official workout.
Reliever Jose Mijares(notes) was absent because, Twins officials said, he was having difficulty leaving his native Venezuela. Gardenhire and general manager Bill Smith couldn't be any more specific than that because, they said, Mijares' representative gave them only a brief word Monday morning that the left-hander wouldn't be there on time.
The Twins can't fine him because the major league's mandatory reporting date is March 2. But they certainly notice his absence.
"He's got to be a little more accountable and understand," Gardenhire said. "Everybody is here except one guy. That should tell him a little bit about himself. He's got to figure it out and do a better job. We have plenty of people who want to pitch. He can only hurt himself."
The Twins have another player from Venezuela, right-hander Deolis Guerra, who somehow made it on time.
Mijares had a solid rookie season in '09 and is expected to be the top lefty in the bullpen but is continuing a pattern of making bad impressions. He reported out-of-shape last season, and he missed the Twins winter festival in January because of visa problems.
"Visa or Mastercard, one of the two," Gardenhire said.
A nice benefit of Twins Fest, Smith said, is having many of the players take physicals a month before camp opens. It gives the club a head's up to any offseason surprises. Mijares did not participate in winter ball, either, so the team has no idea what shape he's in.
LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweeted a Mijares sighting Tuesday. Huzzah!
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"Oh my God," Gardenhire told Young. "What happened, brother? You go through a shrink machine?"
"Yeah, well, Pavano's on our staff so I need to be able to catch the balls hit to the warning track," Young said.
Gardenhire laughed and seemed to appreciate Young showing some personality. Not only has Young struggled to live up to his minor-league promise, but he's also given to acting like a sourpuss.
"I like it, Dixie, I like it!" Gardenhire said. "That's good stuff right there."
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So, what are the odds of the Twins needing 163 games again to finish the regular season? It's gone down to the wire, plus one, in the AL Central the past two seasons.
"[Criminy], I was wondering who would be the first person to ask that," Gardenhire said. "Don't say that stuff, we've done that enough. Holy cow. That's OK, if you win it. What are the odds? Sheesh. If you knew that, and you could prove we were going to do it, you could make a lot of money in Vegas. Let's hope we don't have to do that anymore."