CEDAR RAPIDS – Now Joe Mauer takes a quick breather.
That’s from playing games at least. The Minnesota Twins star and temporary Cedar Rapids Kernel will sit out Thursday night after playing six innings of first base and going 0-for-3 at the plate Wednesday night in the Kernels’ 6-1 loss to Wisconsin before a disappointingly small crowd of 2,162 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
This was the plan all along for Mauer as he works to return to the big leagues after sitting out a month with a strained oblique muscle.
“More of a work day, kind of a built-in rest day after going through tonight,” Mauer said. “That’s probably a good idea. With how I felt this morning, just running around the bases and everything like that (Tuesday night), I’ll probably be pretty stiff in the morning. But that’s part of making your way back.”
Mauer was 1-for-3 as the Kernels’ designated hitter Tuesday night, but got a chance to play in the field Wednesday. He had no grounders of pops hit his way, with his only tough play a failed scoop attempt of a throw in the dirt from second baseman Tanner Vavra on an attempted double play.
He reached on a fielder’s choice after hitting a weak grounder to second base in his first at-bat against Wisconsin starting pitcher Chad Thompson. In his third AB, he struck out swinging.
It was his second plate appearance that was much more classic Mauer. He drove a pitch the other way to the edge of the warning track in left-center that was hauled in by Timber Rattlers left fielder Jose Pena.
“Obviously making outs is not fun,” Mauer said. “But you’ve got to look at the positives. I’m just coming back, this is the second day I’ve hit on the field. You’ve got to be realistic, too. All in all, physically, I came through it pretty good.”
The plan is for Mauer to return to the Kernels lineup for Friday night’s home game against Kane County. That could change, obviously.
He has said repeatedly during his three days in town there is a check list of things he wants to accomplish before he returns to Minnesota. There are things yet to be checked.
“Number one, get more at-bats,” he said. “Things like that. Going first to third, getting a groundball hit to me, catching a pop fly. Those things are necessary, I guess, but it would be nice to get those things out of the way before I head back up north.
“I’m anxious to get back with the big club. I’ve got to get myself healthy and ready to contribute. A few more days down here, a few more at-bats and hopefully I’m ready to go.”
The Kernels (57-58, 26-19) dropped back below .500 overall and out of a tie for first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division. First-place Kane County comes to town for four games beginning Thursday.
Before Wednesday night’s game, there was a ceremony behind home plate in which Kernels President Gary Keoppel and Twins farm director Brad Steil officially signed a Player Development Contract extension that will keep the Twins here through 2020.
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