Mauer starts at first (Game 86 vs. White Sox)
CHICAGO — After playing in 863 games, including 741 behind the plate, Joe Mauer will be making his first career start at first base tonight against the White Sox.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced the move yesterday, but made it official today, batting Mauer third and starting him at first base with Drew Butera getting the nod at catcher, as he’s Carl Pavano’s personal catcher.
“Mauer is playing first base,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “With [Jim] Thome in the lineup, this is a good thing, and with Butera catching Pavano it’s a normal thing. So the way to keep his bat in the lineup, as we talked about a number of times, is to have him at first base. It gives him a chance to rest his legs a little bit and get away from squatting.”
Mauer, who started taking ground balls at first base during batting practice on June 27, hasn’t played the position since appearing in one game there with Class A Fort Myers in 2003. He last saw extended time at first back when he played 13 games there with Class A Quad Cities in 2002.
“I think he’s got a little anxiety about playing first base, but I think that’s normal,” Gardenhire said. “It’s been a long time since he’s done that. But I told him, once he gets out to first base, he’s going to see it’s easy compared to what he’s been doing all these years.”
Mauer, who is borrowing one of Michael Cuddyer’s gloves, took grounders during early batting practice before tonight’s game, as Gardenhire gave him pointers about positioning, holding on runners and how to handle bunts and slow rollers.
“Just all the little things to make sure even though we’ve talked about it all before to reiterate it,” Gardenhire said of his talk with Mauer. “I don’t want him to get killed over there. A ball up the line he needs to catch the ball and get off the line and do a catcher sweep tag. I don’t want him jumping into the basepaths or anything like that.”
Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at U.S. Cellular Field:
1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Rene Tosoni, LF
8. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS
9. Drew Butera, C
RHP Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.19 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 2.23 K/BB)
White Sox (43-45)
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Omar Vizquel, 3B
3. Paul Konerko, 1B
4. Adam Dunn, DH
5. Alex Rios, CF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
8. Mark Teahen, RF
9. Gordon Beckham, 2B
RHP Phil Humber (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 2.42 K/BB)