Slumping Twins bring Mauer back from rehab
CLEVELAND (AP) Joe Mauer didn't receive any gifts for returning from a lengthy stint on the disabled list.
No, his reward was an immediate matchup against two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
''Yeah, welcome back, right?'' Mauer said with a laugh.
The six-time All-Star returned to the lineup on Friday after missing 25 games with a strained neck and concussion-like symptoms sustained when he was injured diving for a foul ball last month.
And while facing Kluber might not be an ideal first step back, the struggling Twins, who have one of the league's weakest offenses, were thrilled to have Mauer back in their lineup.
''It's good for any manager to have a chance to put a guy like Joe's name down there,'' said manager Paul Molitor, who had Mauer batting first against Kluber in the opener of a three-game series against the AL Central-leading Indians. ''Yeah, he's in a good place, he's excited to be here and we welcome him back. Hopefully, he can give us a little bit of a boost.''
The Twins came in seven games under .500 and batting just .238 as a team. They also entered the series with only three runs in the past 19 innings.
That's not ideal against Kluber, who is 5-0 with a 0.76 ERA against the AL Central this season.
''Obviously, he's one of the best in the game,'' Mauer said. ''That's the big leagues. You're going to face the best night in and night out. It's a tough matchup first game, but the one tomorrow (Carlos Carrasco) is pretty tough, too. I'm just excited to be back.''
Mauer has been symptom-free for a week. He went hitless in 10 at-bats over three games in a rehab stint with Triple-A Rochester, but the three-time batting champion feels ready to go.
''It's been going good,'' said Mauer, who was batting .283 with one homer and 11 RBIs when he got hurt. ''Obviously, I went down there and got in a couple of games and did everything I had to do to get back here. I'm excited to check off those boxes, get a couple of at-bats and play in the field for nine innings.''
Mauer said he didn't have to make any diving stops in the field at Rochester, and that he won't alter his game just because of the recent injury.
''My experience is when you try to do that you end up getting hurt,'' he said. ''I got the full clear to go and I'm excited for that.''.
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