MINNEAPOLIS — What appeared inevitable became reality Monday: the Minnesota Twins shut down All-Star catcher Joe Mauer for the rest of the 2013 season due to a concussion.
The team announced that Mauer, who suffered a concussion on Aug. 19, won’t play in Minnesota’s final seven games of the year. Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Monday that Mauer has not suffered a setback in his recovery process, but the timing of everything led the team to play it safe and allow Mauer to recover and look ahead to next year.
“With the calendar and the schedule and so forth about to run out, it’s unrealistic for us to think we’re going to get him on the field this year,” Ryan said. “Ultimately, we’re going to work toward the 2014 season.”
Mauer’s recovery progress has been slow since he was hit in the mask with a foul tip in a game against the New York Mets. He took batting practice last homestand but did not travel with the Twins on their recent road trip. Mauer said Tuesday that he still experiences concussion symptoms, including sensitivity to light.
With the progress moving at the pace it was, it didn’t look promising for Mauer to return, especially since the Twins are not in a playoff race. Minnesota has had several players suffer concussions this year, and each has taken a different length of time to return. Catcher Ryan Doumit, for example, missed just over a week when he had his concussion earlier in the season.
Eventually, though, it became clear that Mauer’s recovery would be longer than others.
“I’ve been pretty realistic about the situation,” Mauer said. “I’ve been trying to come in and do whatever I could to get back on the field. Last home stand was a rough go. I kind of realized then it’s going to be a tough thing to finish out the year.”
Added Ryan: “You can’t speed up the process.”
Before his concussion, Mauer was batting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and 11 home runs in 113 games and was named to his sixth All-Star team. Last season, he played in a career-high 147 games and was on pace to come close to that number of games in 2013 before the concussion sidelined him for the final month and a half.
Even though the Twins are in the midst of another 90-loss season, Mauer said it was “disappointing” to be shut down for the rest of the year but understands it’s in the best interest of his health long-term.
“It’s all about health,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “I’ve got no problem with it. We just want to see Joe healthy. It’s nice to see him hanging around right now. Just get him healthy and have him for next year and beyond that.”
When Mauer first suffered the concussion, a debate arose about whether Mauer should remain at catcher for the long term. Given the value he brings offensively, it’s important to keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup. Some argue that moving Mauer away from catcher to first base would be the solution to keeping him healthy.
As he has said all along, Mauer reiterated Monday that he still wants to catch.
“I have every intention of coming back and catching,” Mauer said. “That’s what I do. But right now I have to take care of this situation so I can. I look forward to getting out on the field next year as a catcher and whatever else they need me to do.”
Mauer has talked quite a bit with his close friend and former teammate Justin Morneau, who suffered a concussion in 2010 and had lingering effects from it the following season. Morneau was traded to Pittsburgh last month, but Mauer has still been able to get advice from someone who has been through this process before.
“He’s checking in on me, seeing how I’m doing,” Mauer said. “I just want everyone to know, I’ve had some good days in a row and I shouldn’t have any problems lingering. I’m just going to try to keep getting better.”