FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) – Joe Mauer is making the most of his abbreviated spring training.
Mauer made his first start at catcher of the spring for the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, getting a hit, a walk, scoring twice and driving in two runs in a 9-2 exhibition victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mauer, who has been brought along slowly following minor offseason surgery on his left knee, was behind the plate for five innings. His defense was tested right away when Rays shortstop Reid Brignac, the second hitter of the game, laid down a bunt that rolled down the third-base line.
Mauer leaped up and ran over to the ball, grabbed it and threw it to first base for an out.
“That’s baseball. It usually finds you,” Mauer said. “It was a play I’m going to have to make sooner or later. It feels good to have it out of the way.”
The three-time AL batting champion is 2 for 5 in Grapefruit League action so far. He went 1 for 3 on Wednesday as the designed hitter.
“When Mauer got up, I had some adrenaline,” Rays starter Wade Davis said. “Unfortunately, he smacked it real good and had a good day.”
Davis did not.
The 25-year-old Davis, in line to be Tampa Bay’s No. 3 starter this season, gave up eight runs off nine hits in 3 1-3 innings. His spring ERA rose to 12.54.
“It wasn’t good at all,” Davis said. “I’ve got to get better. I was wild today, just missing over the plate a little bit. I felt good physically. I felt like I was under control.”
Davis was 12-10 with a 4.07 ERA in 29 starts last season as a rookie.
Rays catcher John Jaso left the game in the fourth inning after a foul ball hit him in the groin. Manager Joe Maddon said Jaso would see a doctor as a precaution. The injury was described as a bruise.
Casey Kotchman homered for the Rays.
Former Rays first-round draft pick Delmon Young homered for the Twins, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs to boost his spring batting average to .368.
Jason Kubel went 2 for 2 with two RBIs to raise his average to .472. He leads the team with 17 hits this spring.
Twins starter Nick Blackburn struck out two and gave up two runs off seven hits in five innings. Blackburn said having Mauer behind the plate again gave him a boost.
“It was good to talk to him,” Blackburn said. “It was definitely good to communicate with him and talk about what we’re trying to do. I was excited to see him back.”
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