Mauer plans to play again in 2013, but return date up in air

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins catcher Joe Mauer doesn’t know when he’ll return to action after suffering a concussion last Monday. But Mauer did say Thursday that he has no plans of calling it quits for the rest of the 2013 season — even though Minnesota is 17 games under .500 with 31 games remaining.

“Shutting it down never entered my mind,” the All-Star catcher said prior to Thursday’s game against Kansas City. “I want to be out there. Obviously I want to be smart about it, but I want to get out there and play.”

Mauer suffered a concussion after taking a few foul balls off the facemask in last Monday’s game against the New York Mets. When Mauer tried to prepare for Tuesday’s game in Detroit, he started feeling concussion-like symptoms. Minnesota placed him on the 7-day concussion disabled list, which he was eligible to come off of earlier this week.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Mauer won’t travel with the team this weekend when Minnesota plays the Texas Rangers. Mauer said he was feeling better Thursday but was still experiencing some of the symptoms.

“Yesterday, I kind of started some really light exercises to get moving again,” Mauer said. “I haven’t been able to do too much the last week or so. It was good day to get back to those things. … But my symptoms have been getting better, which is good. Even the things yesterday, I’m definitely conscious of the way I’m feeling and exercising and taking a break for a little while and see where I’m at.”

Mauer has had several injuries in recent years, including the infamous bilateral leg weakness that limited him to just 82 games in 2011. Mauer is the latest in a long list of catchers who have suffered concussions this year — including teammate Ryan Doumit — and his latest injury once again caused some to wonder if it would be best to move Mauer to another position to keep him healthy.

Gardenhire doesn’t see that happening any time soon.

“I don’t even venture there yet because we’ve just got to get him back and see what he feels like,” Gardenhire said. “There will be discussions about what’s the right thing. Doctors will tell us the pros and cons of it. We’ll just kind of play it by ear. I know Joe likes to catch. It’s what he’s done his whole life. We’ll just have to wait and get him back on the field.”

Before his concussion, Mauer was batting .324 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI in 113 games. Like he’s done the last few years, he’s split his time between catcher, first base and designated hitter. But he’s spent a bigger percentage of his time behind the plate this year than a year ago. Of his 113 games, 73 have been at catcher with just eight at first base.

Mauer is the latest on a list of Twins players to have landed on the 7-day concussion disabled list this year. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez missed significant time earlier this season with a concussion, while Doumit bounced back quickly from his. In 2010, first baseman Justin Morneau missed half the season with a concussion. Former outfielder Denard Span, now with Washington, also dealt with a concussion during his time in Minnesota.

Mauer is the next in line. Unfortunately for the Twins, he happens to be the team’s most valuable and most popular player.

“Each one of them were different, but it always seems to be the same — they have their good days and all of a sudden they backpedal a little bit and go forward,” Gardenhire said. “All you can do is just sit there and hope they get better and let them do their stuff in here. … It’s part of the game now. The unfortunate part is there’s not a lot you can do about it until the guy starts feeling to the point where we can get him on the field.”

A former high school quarterback, Mauer recalled just one other time he had a concussion in his life. It didn’t come on the football field or baseball diamond, though, but rather at school as a 10 or 11-year-old in St. Paul — “Just being a kid, I guess,” Mauer said — although he doesn’t remember how long the symptoms lasted.

Mauer remains hopeful that he’ll return to action this year, although it remains to be seen what position he’d play if he does see the field again in 2013.

“We really haven’t discussed that,” Mauer said. “I’m just trying to progress each day. I guess we’ll cross that when we have to.”

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