Notes: Leg injury doesn't worry Mauer
Catcher expected to be back in the lineup next week
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It didn't take long for Joe Mauer to realize that a little pain in his left leg would cause more than a bit of panic for everyone, it seems, but him.After being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his left fibula on Thursday morning, Mauer said he was amazed at the reaction he received when word of the injury spread. "My phone was full of text messages and voicemails asking me if I was out for the season and what was going on," Mauer said with a laugh. "But I just tried to tell everyone I'm out for a few days. It's all pretty crazy." For all those holding their breath concerning the injury, the catcher was walking around the Twins clubhouse at Hammond Stadium on Friday morning with no problems. Mauer said that he's been told to abstain from running or jogging to try to let the bone heal but he will continue to do cardio on the bike to stay in playing shape. The plan is still to have Mauer reevaluated on Sunday. Mauer said the soreness near his left ankle began about a week ago, but it was when it started to spread in his leg that he got more concerned. The 23-year-old catcher has already started his treatment, which includes a bone stimulator and physical therapy. "I did it three times yesterday and I don't really feel any different so far," Mauer said of the bone stimulation. "It's still kind of early. If I just listen to what [the trainers] have to say, I'm sure I'll be ready to go." With tenderness still remaining in the spot of the stress reaction, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that it will likely be a week before Mauer returns to the field. The goal is to get all the soreness out and let the area completely calm down before having Mauer play once again. As for how the injury will affect him in a spring where he's been slow to get comfortable at the plate, hitting just .211, Mauer said that he isn't too concerned about missing a few days. "I would like to get a few more at-bats in, but I started to feel pretty good the last couple days -- just seeing pitches and getting my timing down," Mauer said. "I don't feel like I need a whole lot more to get going. Of course you'd like to make sure you're ready to start the year but I should be good to go." A different year, a different role: It was just one year ago that Scott Baker beat out left-hander Francisco Liriano for the fifth spot in the Twins rotation. Oh, how much things can change in a year.
Baker was one of three players to be sent down to the Minor Leagues on Friday, as the right-handed pitcher was optioned to Triple-A Rochester. Baker never really got an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation this spring, as he was limited in his time on the mound and found trouble in the opportunities he did get, racking up an 8.71 ERA in six outings (10 1/3 innings).Despite getting sent down a year after earning a roster spot, Baker said he's learned from the trials and tribulations he suffered last season when he was shuffled between Rochester and Minnesota. "I know for a fact that I'm a different pitcher, a different person," Baker said. "Obviously it's a work in progress and I have to keep working on it. I have no doubt in my mind that me getting sent down is not going to determine who I am and what I'm capable of doing." Infielder Alexi Casilla and infielder/outfielder Garrett Jones were also optioned to Rochester on Friday. The reason for Casilla's early departure is that the club wants him to start getting regular playing time in the infield should they need to call him up to play full-time if shortstop Jason Bartlett or second baseman Luis Castillo were to get injured. Slow starter: Spring has never been a particularly strong time for right-hander J.D. Durbin. This year hasn't been the exception either and that doesn't spell well for Durbin at a time where the pressure is on the pitcher to perform because he is out of options. Durbin continued his struggles Friday. He threw two innings and gave up three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out three. His ERA for the spring now sits at 9.00 over a total of seven innings. Durbin admits it's been frustrating over the past few years to consistently be plagued by slow starts. The pitcher blamed a part of that this spring on a bit of adrenaline that came from getting back on the mound after having eight months off due to the nerve damage he suffered in his right biceps. "Controlling that [adrenaline] is tough, especially when I get back out there every four or five days," Durbin said. "I'd like to get on the mound a little more." Gardenhire felt that the situation will just have to play itself out over the final week of spring. "J.D. just had a hard time with his pitching [Friday]," Gardenhire said. "He was just kind of up [in the strike zone] with everything and behind [in the count]. He hasn't been out there that much and that's probably my fault, not getting him enough innings right now. We'll get that all straightened out and just see how he responds on the mound." Twins tidbits: Nick Punto (sore right hip flexor) will be out at least a few more days as the muscle continues to bother him a bit. Punto has not played since Sunday, but said that if it were the regular season he would be playing through the injury. But since its still spring, the Twins staff doesn't want him to risk pushing the injury further along. It's not something considered to be a disabled list possibility, but if it lingers into next week, Gardenhire said that could change. ... Jeff Cirillo made his debut at shortstop for the Twins as he started Friday's game. ... The Twins are now left with 38 players in camp -- 16 pitchers, 10 infielders and seven outfielders. Coming up: The Twins will host the Pirates in a 12:05 p.m. CT game Saturday. Right-hander Carlos Silva will get the start as he faces off against Pittsburgh right-hander Ian Snell.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.