Ron Gardenhire talks about Mauer’s struggles
MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had plenty to say about Joe Mauer while speaking to the media before Thursday’s game against the Rangers.
Mauer is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and was the subject of boos on Wednesday, when he failed to come through with a runner at third base with two outs in the seventh in Minnesota’s eventual 1-0 loss.
Here’s what Gardenhire had to say about Mauer, who entered Thursday hitting .277/.356/.356 with two homers and six doubles in 45 games this season:
He’s hitting a lot of balls hard. The way they’re playing him and pitching him If he were in Boston, he’d be hitting .400. I mean, how many rockets he’s hit out to left field, deep. He’d be pounding that wall. But he’s not in Boston, and they’re playing him oppo. He’s ripping balls that way, and you just go through it. I don’t know if you start counting all the balls that this guy hits on the button. I can promise you it’s as many as anybody in the league. He hits it on the barrel of the bat.
(On the expectations he faces)
The expectations are very high for him. People get frustrated. I just don’t want Joe to get frustrated. I know he is a little bit right now, because he doesn’t have the results that he wants. But I don’t want to put any more pressure on the guy. He goes out and plays, and he gets after it pretty good and he works hard. He’s got a great swing. No one wants to win more than that guy. I’m not going to bench him. I’m going to just leave him in there.
(Does he look more frustrated?)
He’s always shown that side of him (frustration), where he goes into a game and hits some balls right at people, or has a bad at-bat against a guy – which, believe it or not, he does every once in a while – a guy throws some pitches that are pretty good. But he’s always done that (get frustrated). You just don’t see it. In the dugout, a lot of things happen that you guys don’t see. Yeah, he can get pretty tense. Believe me, he can.
(Is he being more selective?)
He’s actually jumped on some more first pitches, trying to ambush people a little bit. Trying different things. He wants to do well. He wants to win. He wants to do all those things and help the team, and he’s trying to figure out different ways to do it. Look to jerk a ball early in the count, all those things. He’s been doing that. More this year than he has in the past. But he’s still not afraid to take pitches, and he’s one of the best hitters in the game as far as I’m concerned with two strikes. It’s incredible how much solid contact the guy makes with two strikes. He can do those things that other people can’t.
I know he’s a little flustered. Last night was disappointing, we lose one-nothing. He had chances, along with a few other guys. You know what? He takes a lot of pride with that stuff.
(Does he need to change his approach to stop hitting where they’re playing him in left?)
I don’t think you can guide ‘em. All you can do is put a good swing on ‘em and barrel it. That’s what he has to continue doing, just barrel the baseball. You start trying to guide it and do this and that, you start getting into trouble doing something you’re not used to. He’s made adjustments.
But right now, I don’t know how many times he’s lined out to left field. He’s hit balls right down the left field line on the line and you’ve got an outfielder standing there. That’s the way they’re playing it, and those used to be hits, so… you know, with all the videos, all the systems, these charts that people throw out there, people are playing him a little bit differently. For him to say, ‘Well, I’m gonna quit hitting it there,’ I don’t know about that. I’d keep hitting it on the screws and take my chances. And that’s what he does. He hits it hard.
The kid can hit. And you know what? I think it’s an eye-opener when we say, ‘Joe Mauer is struggling a little bit.’ It’s an eye-opener for everybody because you’re just not used to seeing that or hearing that. It’s really hard to fathom for him because he’s such a good hitter.
(On the boos in seventh inning)
It’s part of the game for everybody. I know it’s not been a big part for Joe around here, but it’s part of the game. Fans are frustrated. They show it. It’s always been part of the game. I think for Joe, he hears it, believe me. We all hear it. You know what? People have the right to do whatever they want to do when they come in this ballpark. I just hope that he doesn’t put more pressure on himself. I want him to just keep swinging, and he’ll be fine.
Everybody has a right to go out there and make their statements. You can’t control that stuff. Let me tell you what: If he played in cities like where I played [New York], it’s tougher than it is here. We’ve got pretty good fans. They get fired up a little bit, and you guys read it, and you hear it from all your side of it. But it’s still pretty mild compared to most places.