Whether it’s other teams figuring out a better way to pitch to him, the physical drain of a long season or people asking for his time away from the field, Joe Mauer is hitting like a guy who was on the August 7 cover of Sports Illustrated. Only the superstitious will claim the famed magazine has jinxed the All-Star catcher but Mauer was hitting .363 on August 7 and earlier this week his average had fallen to .346 including many games with one or no hits. Before the All-Star game he was hitting .378.
There’s talk that the way to pitch to Mauer, now struggling to maintain his American League batting lead against Derek Jeter, is throw fast balls inside and slower pitches outside. Maybe that strategy is working at times because at 23 Mauer is still young, just in his second full season and learning to handle a long season while playing catcher, baseball’s most physically demanding position.
Manager Ron Gardenhire talks about more days off from catching while the Twins chase a playoff position in the final weeks of the 162 game schedule. Can Mauer, who was hitting .392 on July 1, finish the season in the .340’s? “He’s done it for five months,” Gardenhire answered. “He’s got a great swing. He’s a good hitter. He’s going to be fine.”
Torrii Hunter, who at 31 has several years of major league experience, was asked about bats becoming heavy in late August and September. “Not just for us,” Hunter said. “We’re talking about the whole major leagues. Bats get heavy. People go to the lighter bat.
“Lots of teams get tired because they are out of it but we still have a chance of winning the division or wild card. …You can’t get tired (when you’re in contention). Your body is physically tired but mentally you are not (tired). You’re pumping yourself up everyday. Your adrenaline is your energy so that is what I try to build myself on.”
Hunter talked to Mauer about the distractions Mauer faces as a home town hero and the possibility of becoming mentally tired. “People are dragging him here, dragging him there,” Hunter said. “That takes a toll on him. I talked to him not too long ago about saying no sometimes. He’s so nice of a guy he doesn’t say no. Sometimes you have to, because it will mess up your routine. And if you have a routine, your main goal is to play on the field.
“You can kind of see that mentally there is something wrong there, and hopefully he doesn’t let it bother him. …Next thing you know you get out of your game. You don’t come to early BP (batting practice). You don’t stretch like you usually do. Your routine is messed up because you’re doing something else. Hopefully these next couple of weeks he kind of tones everything down and focuses on the playoffs.”Comments Welcome