Mauer removes catching gear
The Sports Xchange
MLB Team Report - Minnesota Twins - INSIDE PITCH
Joe Mauer is no longer the Minnesota Twins' catcher.
He is now the Twins' first baseman.
The team announced Nov. 11 that the 30-year-old veteran would transition to first base beginning next season.
Mauer, who sustained concussions and other injuries during his career, is making the move to decrease chances of future injuries. The Twins said they and Mauer made the decision after consulting with doctors from Mayo Clinic and team doctors.
"This was one of the tougher decisions I've had to make but also probably one of the easiest," Mauer said in a conference call. "It was a tough decision because I love catching and it's something I've worked hard at my whole life to become the best catcher I could be. So I'm a little disappointed my catching career had to end like this.
"If I were to have another concussion, the symptoms would probably last as long or even longer. What concerned everybody involved was how long it took me to be symptom-free."
Mauer, an American League Silver Slugger this year, batted .324 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 113 games. He sustained a concussion on a foul tip off his mask on Aug. 19. He was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list on Aug. 20 and did not return the rest of the season.
Mauer is symptom-free from the concussion, according to the team, and he began his offseason workouts without restrictions.
In 56 major league games at first base, Mauer has committed four errors in 536 chances for a .993 fielding percentage.
He has caught 920 games and earned three Gold Glove Awards (2008-10). He was named American League MVP while winning his third batting title in 2009.
MLB Team Report - Minnesota Twins - NOTES, QUOTES
2013: 66-96, fourth place in AL Central
TEAM MVP: Joe Mauer didn't play for the last month-and-half of the season and is still the team's MVP. He finished the season on the DL with a concussion, but left another season of decent numbers behind: .324/.404/.476. Behind the plate, he caught 17 base runners stealing and made only two errors. The team's record took a precipitous deep without him in the lineup, which proved exactly how valuable he is to the team.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: There was plenty of disappointment to go around on this team (a failed experiment in center with rookie Aaron Hicks; Chris Parmelee's difficulties at the plate; and preseason ace Scott Diamond struggling on the mound among them). But Josh Willingham's lack of production may have been the biggest disappointment. Coming off a season of 35 homers, 110 RBI and .260 average, the Hammer struggled mightily to match those numbers in the second year of his free-agent contract: 14 homers, 48 RBI and a .208 batting average. Granted, Willingham had arthroscopic knee surgery mid-season, but the overall drop-off has been dramatic.
TOP PROSPECT: It doesn't take much analysis to decide that Byron Buxton, age 19, is the Twins top prospect as he held that distinction for all of baseball much of the season -- and it was warranted. Moving between minor leagues, Buxton hit a cumulative .334/.424/.520 with 49 extra-base hits, 55 stolen bases and a 76-to-105 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 125 games. He led the minors with 18 triples, finished second with 109 runs scored and 12th in stolen bases. The only questions about Buxton, who finished the season in Fort Myers Advance Single-A, will be how soon before he makes the big leagues. The Twins rushed Aaron Hicks up from Double-A in 2013 to troublesome results, and they don't want to repeat that mistake.