Photo - Rob Carr (Getty Images)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - While most of the headlines this time of year are dominated by the Vikings, Wolves, Wild and (ahem) the Gophers, the Minnesota Twins took advantage of a lazy Monday and jumped in to steal most of the attention by announcing that the team’s superstar catcher, Joe Mauer, would be moving out from behind the plate and over to first base for the extent of his career.
Monday afternoon, Mauer and Twins general manager Terry Ryan hopped on a conference call to further explain the situation and the thought process that went in to making this big career shift for Mauer.
“This is probably one of the tougher decisions I’ve had to make, but it’s probably the easiest,” Mauer said. “I knew there would be a day where I couldn’t catch…it’s just so disappointing for me personally that that day came a little sooner than I anticipated.”
Mauer and the Twins made it clear that the position change was a direct result of the concussion that landed Mauer for the final few months of the season. According to Joe, he carried concussion like symptoms including light sensitivity, noise sensitivity headaches and irritability late into October, all stemming from the foul-tip concussion he suffered on August 19th.
“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if I didn’t have that concussion,” Mauer said Monday. “If I received another blow [to the head], the recovery time would likely be as long or longer. That made the decision pretty easy.”
Since being placed on the disabled list in August, Mauer, who is healthy now, said that he began collecting as much information about concussions as he could. Checking in with doctors at the Mayo Clinic and discussion options with team trainers became part of Mauer’s daily routine as the recovery lingered.
While the doctor’s offered their professional opinion, Mauer found comfort in conversing with his long-time friend and former teammate Justin Morneau who suffered a tough bought of his own with concussions while playing with the Twins.
“I talked to Justin quite a bit,” Mauer shared on Monday’s conference call. “He told me that it’s a smart move and that he wishes me the best. He realized the things that I was going through.”
Morneau, a former catcher himself who made the transition to first base much earlier in his career, told Mauer that he’s going to be amazed at how much better his body feels now that he is out from behind the plate.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about [life after baseball],” Mauer said. “I’m going to be a father and husband a heck of a lot longer than a baseball player…[the decision] is a little bit easier to make knowing that I have them to worry about.”
For the Twins, Mauer’s transition leaves a void at an integral position. Josmil Pinto filled in for Mauer admirably at the end of last season, but the young catcher still has a lot to learn and some void’s in his game to fill. Ryan Doumit and Chris Hermann also remain on the Twins 40-man roster and could serve as spot replacements in a pinch. What about Mauer’s future availability to fill in if needed behind the plate?
“No catching,” Mauer stated. “All it takes is one [foul tip]…Foul tips happen all the time. That’s something that can be avoided and that’s what we’re trying to do with the move to first.”
Mauer’s move to first has yet another impact on the Twins lineup heading into 2014. Many fans were holding out hope that free agent first basemen Justin Morneau might find interest in returning to his former team for the upcoming season (Morneau was traded to Pittsburgh by the Twins in 2013). According to general manager Terry Ryan, this move does not help that possibility.
“I never say never, but we’ve got a first basemen [in Mauer] and he’s going to be over there 140-150 games,” Ryan explained. “Not saying it’s not a possibility, but it might be improbable.”
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Twins updates and breaking Twins news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjKFAN